Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
To a Young Poet who Killed Himself
1When you had played with life a space
2 And made it drink and lust and sing,
3You flung it back into God's face
4 And thought you did a noble thing.
5"Lo, I have lived and loved," you said,
6 "And sung to fools too dull to hear me.
7Now for a cool and grassy bed
8 With violets in blossom near me."
9Well, rest is good for weary feet,
10 Although they ran for no great prize;
11And violets are very sweet,
12 Although their roots are in your eyes.
13But hark to what the earthworms say
14 Who share with you your muddy haven:
15"The fight was on -- you ran away.
16 You are a coward and a craven."
17"The rug is ruined where you bled;
18 It was a dirty way to die!
19To put a bullet through your head
20 And make a silly woman cry!
21You could not vex the merry stars
22 Nor make them heed you, dead or living.
23Not all your puny anger mars
24 God's irresistible forgiving.
25"Yes, God forgives and men forget,
26 And you're forgiven and forgotten.
27You may be gaily sinning yet
28 And quick and fresh instead of rotten.
29And when you think of love and fame
30 And all that might have come to pass,
31Then don't you feel a little shame?
32 And don't you think you were an ass?"
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Joyce Kilmer, Trees and Other Poems (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1914), pp. 39-40. PS 3521 I38T7 1914 Robarts Library.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/27
Other poems by Joyce Kilmer