Learning from History

By David Ferry b. 1924 David Ferry
They said, my saints, my slogan-sayers sang,   
Be good, my child, in spite of all alarm.

They stood, my fathers, tall in a row and said,   
Be good, be brave, you shall not come to harm.

I heard them in my sleep and muttering dream,   
And murmuring cried, How shall I wake to this?

They said, my poets, singers of my song,   
We cannot tell, since all we tell you is

But history, we speak but of the dead.   
And of the dead they said such history

(Their beards were blazing with the truth of it)   
As made of much of me a mystery.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2011
 David  Ferry

Biography

David Ferry is an acclaimed American poet and translator. Ferry’s translations, which include some of the world's major works of poetry including The Odes of Horace, and both The Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, are known for their fluency and grace. In addition to his lauded translations, Ferry is also a prize-winning poet in his own right. His poetic works include Dwelling Places (1993) and Of No Country I Know: New and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Couplet, Rhymed Stanza

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