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Read by the Academy of American Poets Staff.
About this Poem 

“The Mortal Lease” was published in Artemis to Actæon (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909).

The Mortal Lease

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 saw?

Shall kinship with the dim first-moving clod
Not draw the folded pinion from the soul,
And shall we not, by spirals vision-trod,
Reach upward to some still-retreating goal,
As earth, escaping from the night's control,
Drinks at the founts of morning like a god?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

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).

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Le Belgique ne regrette rien

Not with her ruined silver spires,
Not with her cities shamed and rent,
Perish the imperishable fires
That shape the homestead from the tent.

Wherever men are staunch and free,
There shall she keep her fearless state,
And homeless, to great

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On a sheer peak of joy we meet;
Below us hums the abyss;
Death either way allures our feet
If we take one step amiss.

One moment let us drink the blue
Transcendent air together—
Then down where the same old work's to do
In the same dull daily weather.

We may not wait . . .

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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