This Life Is Not Good But in Danger and in Joy

A discreet householder exclaims on the grandsire
In warpaint and feathers, with fierce grandsons and
axes
Dancing round a backyard fire of boxes:
“Watch grandfather, he’ll set the house on fire.”

But I will unriddle for you the thought of his mind,
An old one you cannot open with conversation.
What animates the thin legs in risky motion?
Mixes the snow on the head with snow in the wind?

“Grandson, grandsire. We are equally boy and boy.
Do not offer your reclining-chair and slippers
With tedious old women talking in wrappers.
This life is not good but in danger and in joy.

“It is you the elder to these and younger to me
Who are penned as slaves by properties and causes
And never walk from your insupportable houses
And shamefully, when boys shout, go in and flee.

“May God forgive me, I know your middling ways,
Having taken care and performed ignominies un-
reckoned
Between the first brief childhood and the brief second,
But I will be more honorable in these days.”

John Crowe Ransom, Old Man Playing With Children

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