Debits and Credits

To the Companions

Horace, Ode 17, Bk. V.

Rudyard Kipling

HOW comes it that, at even-tide,
    When level beams should show most truth,
Man, failing, takes unfailing pride
    In memories of his frolic youth?

Venus and Liber fill their hour;
    The games engage, the law-courts prove;
Till hardened life breeds love of power
    Or Avarice, Age’s final love.

Yet at the end, these comfort not—
    Nor any triumph Fate decrees—
Compared with glorious, unforgot-
    ten innocent enormities

Of frontless days before the beard,
    When, instant on the casual jest,
The God Himself of Mirth appeared
    And snatched us to His heaving breast.

And we—not caring who He was
    But certain He would come again—
Accepted all He brought to pass
    As Gods accept the lives of men . . .

Then He withdrew from sight and speech,
    Nor left a shrine. How comes it now,
While Charon’s keel grates on the beach,
    He calls so clear: ‘Rememberest thou?’?

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