Anthony Hecht

Anthony Hecht
We have set out from here for the sublime
Pastures of summer shade and mountain stream;
I have no doubt we shall arrive on time.

Is all the green of that enameled prime
A snapshot recollection or a dream?
We have set out from here for the sublime

Without provisions, without one thin dime,
And yet, for all our clumsiness, I deem
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Naming the Animals
Having commanded Adam to bestow
Names upon all the creatures, God withdrew
To empyrean palaces of blue
That warm and windless morning long ago,
And seemed to take no notice of the vexed
Look on the young man's face as he took thought
Of all the miracles the Lord had wrought,
Now to be labelled, dubbed, yclept, indexed.
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An Offering for Patricia

The work has been going forward with the greatest difficulty, chiefly because I cannot concentrate. I have no feeling about whether what I am writing is good or bad, and the whole business is totally without excitement and pleasure for me. And I am sure I know the reason. It’s that I can’t stand leaving unresolved my situation with Pat. I hear from her fairly frequently, asking when I plan to come back, and she knows that I am supposed to appear at the poetry reading in the middle of January. It is not mainly loneliness I feel, though I feel it; but I have been lonely before. It is quite frankly the feeling that nothing is really settled between us, and that in the mean time I worry about how things are going to work out. This has made my work more difficult than it has ever been before.

– From a letter to his parents dated November 9, 1955, Rome.

Hardly enough for me that the pail of water
Alive with the wrinkling light
Brings clearness home and whiter
Than mind conceives the walls mature to white,
Or that the washed tomatoes whose name is given
To love fulfill their bowl
And the Roman sea is woven
Together by threading fish and made most whole.

I delight in each of these, delight moreover
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“Dark and amusing he is, this handsome gallant,
Of chamois-polished charm,
Athlete and dancer of uncommon talent—
Is there cause for alarm
In his smooth demeanor, the proud tilt of his chin,
This cavaliere servente, this Harlequin?

“Gentle and kindly this other, ardent but shy,
With an intelligence
Who would not glory to be guided by—
And would it not make sense
To trust in someone so devoted, so
Worshipful as this tender, pale Pierrot?

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A Friend Killed in the War
Night, the fat serpent, slipped among the plants,
Intent upon the apples of his eyes;
A heavy bandoleer hung like a prize
Around his neck, and tropical red ants
Mounted his body, and he heard advance,
Little by little, the thin female cries
Of mortar shells. He thought of Paradise.
Such is the vision that extremity grants.

In the clean brightness of magnesium
Flares, there were seven angels by a tree.
Their hair flashed diamonds, and they made him doubt
They were not really from Elysium.
And his flesh opened like a peony,
Red at the heart, white petals furling out.
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Mathematics Considered as a Vice
I would invoke that man
Who chipped for all posterity an ass
(The one that Jesus rode)
Out of hard stone, and set its either wing
Among the wings of the most saintly clan
On Chartres Cathedral, and that it might sing
The praise to all who pass
Of its unearthly load,
Hung from its neck a harp-like instrument.
I would invoke that man
To aid my argument.

The ass smiles on us all,
Being astonished that an ass might rise
To such sure eminence
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The Plate
Now he has silver in him. When sometime
Death shall boil down unnecessary fat
To reach the nub of our identity,
When in the run of crime
The skull is rifled for the gold in teeth,
And chemistry has eaten from the spine
Superfluous life and vigor, why then he
Will show a richness to be wondered at,
And shall be thought a mine
Whose claim and stake are stone and floral wreath.

The body burns away, and burning gives
Light to the eye and moisture to the lip
And warmth to our desires, but it burns
Whatever body lives
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The Feast of Stephen

The coltish horseplay of the locker room,
Moist with the steam of the tiled shower stalls,
With shameless blends of civet, musk and sweat,
Loud with the cap-gun snapping of wet towels
Under the steel-ribbed cages of bare bulbs,
In some such setting of thick basement pipes
And janitorial realities
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“It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It.”
Tonight my children hunch
Toward their Western, and are glad
As, with a Sunday punch,
The Good casts out the Bad.

And in their fairy tales
The warty giant and witch
Get sealed in doorless jails
And the match-girl strikes it rich.
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“More Light! More Light!”
for Heinrich Blücher and Hannah Arendt Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
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Third Avenue in Sunlight
Third Avenue in sunlight. Nature’s error.
Already the bars are filled and John is there.
Beneath a plentiful lady over the mirror
He tilts his glass in the mild mahogany air.

I think of him when he first got out of college,
Serious, thin, unlikely to succeed;
For several months he hung around the Village,
Boldly T-shirted, unfettered but unfreed.
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