To A Poet, A Thousand Years Hence

Posted on July 15, 2007
Filed Under Poetry | Leave a Comment

Here is my favourite, by far, of two poems with the same name.

The second one follows the first and is, in my opinion, also very good.

To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Or metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

– James Elroy Flecker

And the second

To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence

I who am dead a thousand years
Who wrote this cribbed and broken verse,
Conveying an envoy of words
To a time and space I cannot course.

I cannot know how you may look
What sort of life you live each day;
If days and places still exist;
If you’d understand all I say.

Do wine and song still entertain?
High finance and romance pursue?
Of virtue wrestling the profane?
Are these still themes of art for you?

What shall we conquer? All seems done
Have all the words before me come?
Man’s slow decay must now be done;
Poet’s names dead to more than some.

Have you a use for all these words?
Or is this craft among those that died:
Whose echoes of our past are heard
That worn out shoes can still confide.

We may have been friends had we met,
Two fledgling poets raising brows.
Read betwixt my lines when you may,
Apprentice as I do today.

You must be born to some lost time
To comprehend my poem thus far.
We travel through, our paths entwined
And guided by the same bright star.

I’ll never set my eyes on you
And neither take your hand in mine;
I leave you with a heart that’s true:
Go tell the rest that all is fine.

— Frederick Kesner


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