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Voltaire At Ferney

W.H. Auden

Almost happy now, he looked at his estate. 
An exile making watches glanced up as he passed, 
And went on working; where a hospital was rising fast 
A joiner touched his cap; an agent came to tell 
Some of the trees he'd planted were progressing well. 
The white alps glittered. It was summer. He was very great. 

Far off in Paris, where his enemies 
Whsipered that he was wicked, in an upright chair 
A blind old woman longed for death and letters. He would write 
"Nothing is better than life." But was it? Yes, the fight 
Against the false and the unfair 
Was always worth it. So was gardening. Civilise. 

Cajoling, scolding, screaming, cleverest of them all, 
He'd had the other children in a holy war 
Against the infamous grown-ups, and, like a child, been sly 
And humble, when there was occassion for 
The two-faced answer or the plain protective lie, 
But, patient like a peasant, waited for their fall. 

And never doubted, like D'Alembert, he would win: 
Only Pascal was a great enemy, the rest 
Were rats already poisoned; there was much, though, to be done, 
And only himself to count upon. 
Dear Diderot was dull but did his best; 
Rousseau, he'd always known, would blubber and give in. 

So, like a sentinel, he could not sleep. The night was full of wrong, 
Earthquakes and executions. Soon he would be dead, 
And still all over Europe stood the horrible nurses 
Itching to boil their children. Only his verses 
Perhaps could stop them: He must go on working: Overhead 
The uncomplaining stars composed their lucid song. 

Added: 19 Aug 2001 | Last Read: 22 Jan 2018 5:10 AM | Viewed: 7606 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/29/ | Viewed on 22 January 2018.
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