Many in the Darkness

By Thomas McGrath 1916–1990 Thomas McGrath

November 1941

We sat in the park, but there was a war between us,
A dead moon over us and all around us
The shy and secret whisperings as of the tiny
Woods animals which in the high forest gather
Wind-fallen goods before the frost comes.

      We praised as lucky all whose sure existence
      (As of the careless moon, the dutiless squirrels)
      Is not responsible for human history—
      Feeling how our happiness, how hope must mount
      Machine guns which other men yet have the firing of,
      How liberty is seen in the form of a fighter plane
      Millions look up asking, Is it ours?

Our despair was temporary but not less painful.
Over us the moon was quiet about its business,
Pouring its constant light upon the naked beaches.
The squirrels built up their small defenses
Obliged to the fulfillment of a natural process.
Their leaf-lined cell, the brilliance of the moon,
The winter cannot touch and no touch tarnish.

Thomas McGrath, “Many in the Darkness” from The Movie at the End of the World: Collected Poems, published by Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. Copyright © 1972 by Thomas McGrath. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: The Movie at the End of the World: Collected Poems (Swallow Press, 1972)

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

Poet Thomas McGrath 1916–1990

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

 Thomas  McGrath


For some fifty years, the late Thomas McGrath produced a prolific array of titles, encompassing poetry, novels, books for children, and several documentary film scripts, including uncredited work on the eloquent and exhilarating Smithsonian film about the history of flight, To Fly. But McGrath is primarily a poet, and although "important contemporary poets . . . proclaim him as a major voice in American poetry in the last three . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

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.