from Dante Études: Book Three: In My Youth Not Unstaind

By Robert Duncan 1919–1988 Robert Duncan
[Étude from the Fourth Treatise of the Convivio, Chapter XXVII]

In my youth, not unstaind
and in much ignoble;   in manhood,
struggling to ring true   yet
knowing often my defection from
these graces Dante lists
proper to Man:   temperance, courage,
love, courtesy,
and loyalty.   I speak still
to sustain his meaning in my own.
And, in you, whatever I have known
of grace comes through to me.

Now, upon old age:   “Our life
has a fixt course and a simple path”
I would not avoid, that of our right nature
—then Dante adds, himself quoting:
and in every part of our life
 place is given for certain things:

a memory of the good of things before,
a knowledge of good things present,
and foresight of things yet to be made good—

ennobling song, truth’s clarion,
beauty renderd lasting in the mind,
obedience to our common cause
       stirrd once again,
that music that to orders larger than
restoreth man.

Robert Duncan, “from Dante Études: Book Three: In My Youth Not Unstaind” from Ground Work: Before the War / In the Dark. Copyright © 1984 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Ground Work: Before the War / In the Dark (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1984)


Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Robert Duncan 1919–1988


SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Living, Youth, Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets