Measured Extravagance

15 April 2002 - 8:37 p.m.

After reading Dichroic's entry about her friends' sad news, the poem I went to look up was Anthony Hecht's "The Vow":

In the third month, a sudden flow of blood.
The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, and the joy
Also of the harp. The frail image of God
Lay spilled and formless. Neither girl nor boy,
But yet blood of my blood, nearly my child.
All that long day
Her pale face turned to the window's mild
Featureless grey.

And for some nights she whimpered as she dreamed
The dead thing spoke, saying: "Do not recall
Pleasure at my conception. I am redeemed
From pain and sorrow. Mourn rather for all
Who breathlessly issue from the bone gates,
The gates of horn,
For truly it is best of all the fates
Not to be born.

"Mother, a child lay gasping for bare breath
On Christmas Eve when Santa Claus had set
Death in the stocking, and the lights of death
Flamed in the tree. O, if you can, forget
You were the child, turn to my father's lips
Against the time
When his cold hand puts forth its fingertips
Of jointed lime."

Doctors of Science, what is man that he
Should hope to come to a good end? The best
Is not to have been born.
And could it be
That Jewish diligence and Irish jest
The consent of flesh and a midwinter storm
Had reconciled
Was yet too bold a mixture to inform
A simple child?

Even as gold is tried, Gentile and Jew.
If that ghost was a girl's, I swear to it:
Your mother shall be far more blessed than you.
And if a boy's, I swear: The flames are lit
That shall refine us; they shall not destroy
A living hair.
Your younger brothers shall confirm in joy
This that I swear.

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