by LOUIS UNTERMEYER (1885-1997)
Why are the things that have no death
The ones with neither sight nor breath!
Eternity is thrust upon
A bit of earth, a senseless stone.
A grain of dust, a casual clod
Receives the greatest gift of God.
A pebble in the roadway lies—
It never dies.
The grass our fathers cut away
Is growing on their graves today;
The tiniest brooks that scarcely flow
Eternally will come and go.
There is no kind of death to kill
The sands that lie so meek and still. . . .
But Man is great and strong and wise—
And so he dies.
During his lifetime, Louis Untermeyer exercised substantial influence on American literature through his anthologies, lectures and his own poetry. He had close friendships with many notable literati and also made some enemies through his criticisms. In the 1950s, his reputation was tarnished by a perceived affiliation with Communist societies and he was blacklisted.