Stranger

By Allen Tate 1899–1979 Allen Tate
This is the village where the funeral
Stilted its dusty march over deep ruts
Up the hillside covered with queen’s lace
To the patch of weeds known finally to all.
 
Of her virtues large tongues were loud
As I, a stranger, trudged the streets
Gay with huckstering: loud whispers from a few
Sly wags who squeezed a humor from the shroud.
 
For this was death.
I should never see these men again
And yet, like the swiftness of remembered evil—
An issue for conscience, say—
The cold heart of death was beating in my brain:
A new figuration of an old phenomenon.
 
This is the village where women walk the streets
Selling eggs, breasts ungathered, hands like rawhide;
Of their virtues the symbol can be washtubs
But when they die it is a time of singing,
 
And then the symbol changes with change of place.
Let the wags wag as the pall-bearers climb the hill.
Let a new slab look off into the sunset:
The night drops down with sullen grace.

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Poet Allen Tate 1899–1979

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Fugitive

Subjects Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Allen  Tate

Biography

Allen Tate was a well-known man of letters from the American South, a central figure in the fields of poetry, criticism, and ideas. In the course of a career spanning the middle decades of the twentieth century, Tate authored poems, essays, translations, and fiction. Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor James T. Jones wrote that his "influence was prodigious, his circle of acquaintances immense." Tate relished his "man . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Fugitive

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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