What is it?
Folded in like a dark thought
For which the language is lost,
Is there a great secret?
Are our words no good?
The undeliverable secret,
Dead with a dead race and a dead speech, and yet
Darkly monumental in you,
Ah, how I admire your fidelity,
Is it the secret of the long-nosed Etruscans?
The long-nosed, sensitive-footed, subtly-smiling Etruscans,
Who made so little noise outside the cypress groves?
Among the sinuous, flame-tall cypresses
That swayed their length of darkness all around
Etruscan-dusky, wavering men of old Etruria:
Naked except for fanciful long shoes,
Going with insidious, half-smiling quietness
And some of Africa’s imperturbable sang-froid
About a forgotten business.
What business, then?
Nay, tongues are dead, and words are hollow as seed-pods,
Having shed their sound and finished all their echoing
That had the telling.
Yet more I see you darkly concentrate,
On one old thought:
On one old slim imperishable thought, while you remain
Dusky, slim marrow-thought of slender, flickering men of Etruria,
Whom Rome called vicious.
Vicious, dark cypresses:
Vicious, you supple, brooding, softly-swaying pillars of dark flame.
Monumental to a dead, dead race
Embowered in you!
Were they then vicious, the slender, tender-footed
Long-nosed men of Etruria?
Or was their way only evasive and different, dark, like cypress-trees in a wind?
They are dead, with all their vices,
And all that is left
Is the shadowy monomania of some cypresses
The smile, the subtle Etruscan smile still lurking
Within the tombs,
He laughs longest who laughs last;
Nay, Leonardo only bungled the pure Etruscan smile.
What would I not give
To bring back the rare and orchid-like
For as to the evil
We have only Roman word for it,
Which I, being a little weary of Roman virtue,
Don’t hang much weight on.
For oh, I know, in the dust where we have buried
The silenced races and all their abominations,
We have buried so much of the delicate magic of life.
There in the deeps
That churn the frankincense and ooze the myrrh,
Such an aroma of lost human life!
The say the fit survive,
But I invoke the spirits of the lost.
Those that have not survived, the darkly lost,
To bring their meaning back into life again,
Which they have taken away
And wrapt inviolable in soft cypress-trees,
Evil, what is evil?
There is only one evil, to deny life
As Rome denied Etruria
And mechanical America Montezuma still.