And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth’s noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .

—Archibald MacLeish

3 thoughts on “You, Andrew Marvell

    1. It’s a further comment to this post of Bardiac’s:

      My students think I’m crazy, because clearly it’s just geography. But the layers of empire building and loss, the translatio imperii et studii, along with personal intimations of mortality, the meanings that MacLeish (it may be surmised) intended, the ones he could not have foreseen but seem astonishingly prescient given 21st century developments . . . . MacLeish wrote it in 1930; Spain had not yet gone under to the Civil War, but he may have seen the writing on that particular wall.

      On a more cheerful note, when I asked students to write poems responding to the poem of their choice from our syllabus, I had one lovely response that revised this one to have dawn coming for her family as they immigrated to a country where things went better for them. And I think most of the class was intrigued at the idea of poets responding to each other across centuries.

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