Meditation from the Steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum
Here on this rock, the breeze is cool.
The city spreads below
Like foxfire hanging in a misty pool.
Great spotlights throw
Long shadows on the temple walls
Behind us. (Let us say
It is a temple—for today—
Although we hear quite different calls
From those that called the Greeks.)
Here, where the air glows clean and fresh,
We may forget, for now, the city speaks
In curses as in whispers, and that flesh
Moults from the bones of cities and the strongest falls.
So Socrates may once have stood
Upon the temple hill
That overlooked his world, and found it good
To look upon the houses spread
Before him and to think that still
The city would outstay him, though he died.
He loved a world too quickly dead.
The stones below him lied
In saying all was Greek and Greek would stay.
Two thousand years have melted quite away
All but names and memories
And copied temples where I feel an older breeze.
If, when the lights below grow dim,
They say of me, as I of him,
He loved a world that shortly died,
Let them not mock.
If, when our history's great clock
Runs out, and ages melt the rock
Where now I stand, I shall have tried
To save its light,
Let them not laugh because I fell.
That is the common case.
If any live then, let them tell
That I preserved this brilliant city night:
For saving one small part of dying light
Is no disgrace.