God, though this life is but a wraith, Although we know not what we use, Although we grope with little faith, Give me the heart to fight and lose.
No Worst, There is None
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
One could argue, quite successfully, that pairing Hopkin with Untermeyer is in poor taste, rather like pairing champagne with collard greens. Each has it own merit, but better to drink beer with one and eat strawberries with the other. However, just because it isn’t done, doesn’t mean the clash can’t be illuminating.
Untermeyer was a clever chap, he ran in elite literary circles, not so much as a writer but more so as an editor and anthologist. His academic background helped to wrangle a spot as one of the original judges on What’s My Line? in the early days of television. He was booted off the show after a year because there was a whiff of Marxism floating around in his closet from many years prior. The producers used it as an excuse to remove what was a decideldy dull personality from its show. Untermeyer’s blacklisting was more like a grey listing, as the evidence really didn’t stand up. In fact at the very time that Untermeyer was under suspicion, he was waging a rather nasty rhetorical battle against Ezra Pound, who was in prison for treason. Many other writers had come to Pound’s defense, but not Untermeyer. With a level of wit completely non-existent from his television career, he was quoted as saying, ““I do not believe he (Pound) should be shot. I would favor merely life imprisonment in a cell surrounded by books—all of them copies of the works of Edgar A. Guest.”
Untermeyer fared far better than others who were blacklisted for less. He was appointed to the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, the position that was the predecessor to our national poet laureate. Untermeyer is best known for his translation work and his many anthologies for readers of all ages. Untermeyer traveled extensively late in life giving lectures on poetry around the world, his welcome little sullied by his political leanings.
On The Birth Of A Child
by Louis Untermeyer
LO, to the battle-ground of Life,
Child, you have come, like a conquering shout,
Out of a struggle—into strife;
Out of a darkness—into doubt.
Girt with the fragile armor of youth,
Child, you must ride into endless wars,
With the sword of protest, the buckler of truth,
And a banner of love to sweep the stars.
About you the world’s despair will surge;
Into defeat you must plunge and grope.
Be to the faltering an urge;
Be to the hopeless years a hope!
Be to the darkened world a flame;
Be to its unconcern a blow—
For out of its pain and tumult you came,
And into its tumult and pain you go