Then and Now

By Babette Deutsch 1895–1982 Babette Deutsch
Then was the grown-up world of tall decision,
Its beauty of late nights denied a child;
World of bewildering gifts, and strange derision,
Alien alike whether it frowned or smiled,
Yet your least wish was governed by its laws.
The landscape and the weather both were odd,
Exploding with effects that hid a cause
Serene and lonely as the Will of God.
Recall it: peopled by an august race,
Immune to the passions that attack the young,
And knowing all. There every commonplace
Must be translated from a marvellous tongue.

Now is the world of grandeur dwindled, shrunk
To what the stupidest can understand.
The shabby treasures of an exile’s trunk
Include no passport to that wonderland,
Though you are told you are a citizen.
The scenery is changed, the climate dull;
The fateful masks are faces, gods are men;
Most nights are long and few are magical.
But there are strangers even here: their speech
Is rich in barbarous mystery, their ways
Are private, who live wholly beyond reach,
Admired and feared, though none of us obeys
Their foreign rule. No dictators, and yet
Strong utterly. While we, with pity wrung
For what they must do, suffer, learn, forget,
Feel shy when we approach them. They are young.

Babette Deutsch, “Then and Now” from The Collected Poems of Babette Deutsch (New York: Doubleday, 1969). Reprinted with the permission of Michael Yarmolinsky.

Source: The Collected Poems (Random House Inc., 1969)

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

Poet Babette Deutsch 1895–1982

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Time & Brevity, Youth, Living

 Babette  Deutsch


Poet, novelist, editor, and critic Babette Deutsch was born and lived much of her life in New York City. She began to publish poems in journals such as the New Republic while a student at Barnard College, where she earned a BA. Two years after her graduation, she published her first poetry collection, Banners (1919).
Aligned with the Imagist movement, Deutsch typically composed compact, lyrical pieces using crisp visual . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Youth, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.