Atherton's Gambit

Poem By Edwin Arlington Robinson

The Master played the bishop’s pawn,
For jest, while Atherton looked on;
The master played this way and that,
And Atherton, amazed thereat,
Said “Now I have a thing in view
That will enlighten one or two,
And make a difference or so
In what it is they do not know.”

The morning stars together sang
And forth a mighty music rang—
Not heard by many, save as told
Again through magic manifold
By such a few as have to play
For others, in the Master’s way,
The music that the Master made
When all the morning stars obeyed.

Atherton played the bishop’s pawn
While more than one or two looked on;
Atherton played this way and that,
And many a friend, amused thereat,
Went on about his business
Nor cared for Atherton the less;
A few stood longer by the game,
With Atherton to them the same.

The morning stars are singing still,
To crown, to challenge, and to kill;
And if perforce there falls a voice
On pious ears that have no choice
Except to urge an erring hand
To wreak its homage on the land,
Who of us that is worth his while
Will, if he listen, more than smile?

Who of us, being what he is,
May scoff at others’ ecstasies?
However we may shine to-day,
More-shining ones are on the way;
And so it were not wholly well
To be at odds with Azrael,—
Nor were it kind of any one
To sing the end of Atherton.

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