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About this poet

Edith Wharton, born January 24, 1862, is the author of numerous books, including Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909) and Verses (privately printed, 1878), as well as the notable fiction works The Age of Innocence (D. Appleton & Company, 1920), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; Ethan Frome (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911); and The House of Mirth (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905). She died on August 11, 1937.

Experience

Like Crusoe with the bootless gold we stand 
Upon the desert verge of death, and say: 
“What shall avail the woes of yesterday 
To buy to-morrow’s wisdom, in the land 
Whose currency is strange unto our hand? 
In life’s small market they had served to pay 
Some late-found rapture, could we but delay 
Till Time hath matched our means to our demand.” 

But otherwise Fate wills it, for, behold, 
Our gathered strength of individual pain, 
When Time’s long alchemy hath made it gold, 
Dies with us—hoarded all these years in vain, 
Since those that might be heir to it the mould 
Renew, and coin themselves new griefs again. 


II

O Death, we come full-handed to thy gate, 
Rich with strange burden of the mingled years, 
Gains and renunciations, mirth and tears, 
And love’s oblivion, and remembering hate, 
Nor know we what compulsion laid such freight 
Upon our souls—and shall our hopes and fears 
Buy nothing of thee, Death? Behold our wares, 
And sell us the one joy for which we wait. 
Had we lived longer, life had such for sale, 
With the last coin of sorrow purchased cheap, 
But now we stand before thy shadowy pale, 
And all our longings lie within thy keep— 
Death, can it be the years shall naught avail? 

“Not so,” Death answered, “they shall purchase sleep.”

From Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909). This poem is in the public domain.

From Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909). This poem is in the public domain.

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, born January 24, 1862, is the author of numerous books, including Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909) and Verses (privately printed, 1878).

by this poet

poem

Life, like a marble block, is given to all,
A blank, inchoate mass of years and days,
Whence one with ardent chisel swift essays
Some shape of strength or symmetry to call;
One shatters it in bits to mend a wall;
One in a craftier hand the chisel lays,
And one, to wake the mirth in

poem

Before the clepsydra had bound the days
Man tethered Change to his fixed star, and said:
"The elder races, that long since are dead,
Marched by that light; it swerves not from its base
Though all the worlds about it wax and fade."

When Egypt saw it, fast in reeling spheres,
Her

poem
II.

Because our kiss is as the moon to draw
The mounting waters of that red-lit sea
That circles brain with sense, and bids us be
The playthings of an elemental law,
Shall we forego the deeper touch of awe
On love's extremest pinnacle, where we,
Winging the vistas of infinity,
Gigantic on the mist our shadows
2