To the Consolations of Philosophy

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
Thank you but
not just at the moment

I know you will say
I have said that before
I know you have been
there all along somewhere
in another time zone

I studied once
those beautiful instructions
when I was young and
far from here
they seemed distant then
they seem distant now
from everything I remember

I hope they stayed with you
when the noose started to tighten
and you could say no more
and after wisdom
and the days of iron
the eyes started from your head

I know the words
must have been set down
partly for yourself
unjustly condemned after
a good life

I know the design
of the world is beyond
our comprehension
thank you
but grief is selfish and in
the present when
the stars do not seem to move
I was not listening

I know it is not
sensible to expect
fortune to grant her
gifts forever
I know

Source: Poetry (February 2001).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the February 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

View this poem in its original format

February 2001
 W. S. Merwin

Biography

W.S. Merwin is a prolific, leading American writer whose poetry, translations, and prose have won praise over seven decades. His first book, A Mask for Janus (1952),  was chosen by W.H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Though that first book reflected the formalism of the period, Merwin eventually became known for an impersonal, open style that eschewed punctuation. Writing in the Guardian, Jay Parini described Merwin’s . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Arts & Sciences, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Philosophy

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Allusion, Epistle

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

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.