Don Marquis

My dust in ruined Babylon
  Is blown along the level plain,
And songs of mine at dawn have soared
  Above the blue Sicilian main.

We are ourselves, and not ourselves . . .
  For ever thwarting pride and will
Some forebear’s passion leaps from death
  To claim a vital license still.

Ancestral lusts that slew and died,
  Resurgent, swell each living vein;
Old doubts and faiths, new panoplied,
  Dispute the mastery of the brain.

The love of liberty that flames
  From written rune and stricken reed
Shook the hot hearts of swordsmen sires
  At Marathon and Runnymede.

What are these things we call our “selves”? . . .
  Have I not shouted, sobbed, and died
In the bright surf of spears that broke
  Where Greece rolled back the Persian tide?

Are we who breathe more quick than they
  Whose bones are dust within the tomb?
Nay, as I write, what gray old ghosts
  Murmur and mock me from the gloom. . . .

They call . . . across strange seas they call,
  Strange seas, and haunted coasts of time. . . .
They startle me with wordless songs
  To which the Sphinx hath known the rhyme.

Our hearts swell big with dead men’s hates,
  Our eyes sting hot with dead men’s tears;
We are ourselves, but not ourselves,
  Born heirs, but serfs, to all the years!

I rode with Nimrod . . . strove at Troy . . .
  A slave I stood in Crowning Tyre,
A queen looked on me and I loved
  And died to compass my desire.

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