Anniversary Poem: O Listless Me


An anniversary poem for my beloved. Based on “Ulysses” by Tennyson.

O Listless Me

It little profits that an idle Kim
In this still warm hearth, crabby and careless,
Matched with a patient wife, I oft cajole
An unequal place. Like a savage I
Hoard and sleep and feed and forget the chores.
But I cannot rest from duty. I ought
Remember this: All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, but the best
With her, that loved me, and not alone. And
Thro’ scudding drifts I go back to that brisk
Evening in March, when you became my name.
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much had I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, seasons, secrets, societies
Of honour and disrepute alike,
And drunk delight of fatuous passion
Though it was ringing plain there was no joy.
I am a part of all that I have met
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when we move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use.
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and if that is all
What then remains? Every hour that passes
In silence humbly yearns for something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some five suns to store and hoard myself
And this lax spirit complacent like a
Star sinking in the knowledge that this is
The utmost bound of our contracted sphere.

You are my wife, and I am your husband,
Though I wield the sceptre to our island—-
Beloved, you are the one discerning
The labour, by slow prudence making mild
This chaos I create, and through decree
Subduing it to useful purpose.
Most blameless are you, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, pious
In adoration to both home and God.
When I am gone, I know you can go on.

Here is the ring I lost beneath the bed;
There you lie beside me, reading. My love,
Soul that have toiled and wrought and thought with me
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Freedom for a life with me. You and I
Are still young. Time has not yet taken toll
And kept one from the other. There’s still chance;
Some work of noble note may yet be done,
While this gray recognition still remains.
The glass door dims a purple blue.
The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs, the streets
Shudder with passing whispers. Come on, lout,
‘Tis not too late to bridge another life,
Push off, and, putting your house in order,
Take up the mantle of your charge. For you
Are no mere liege (or leech) or guest but lord!
And ought command and soldier on beside
Your fellowship. Your helm is needed not
To rule but show your proper stewardship
To her who waits for your engagement still.
Though much is taken, much abides. And though
You are not now (nor ever were) that strength
Which can turn the tide, you are what you are:
One tempered to match a heroic heart,
Made weak by temperament, but strong in faith
To yield in meekness — thus the lead to take.


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