I Remember

I am not ashamed of this.
And be you not ashamed of this.
It is not glorious,
But neither loathsome.
We are beings whom to meet
Is what prognostication taught:
Familiar to the touch of self
By many wounds, though healed,
And simple to the eye of time
By the disappearance of the scars.
Nothing is happening: rightly sees
The present impassive look.
Rightly our memory stings
With an incredible aliveness:
Long ago and not long ago
We were committing those outrages
Which breed the heroic title
And privately make aghast.

It has become less horrible to be.
The loss of splendor was the loss of fright—
Gigantic steps in the dark,
An advancing as toward pain that made it pain
When senses shrieked encounter.
Widely we groped, as if brave;
Closing on something—that was love,
By accident of night inflicted
And borne like fate, tragically
Because invisible.
Epic disaster!
To explore as if an empty universe
And have the shield of solitude pierced
By the existence of another!

It has grown less foolish to be.
We knew it would become as it is.
Fate was but the ringing in our ears
Of a resolution of deafness
Against the shock of hearing ourselves speak;
And pain, the lie of astonishment
That being should be so much—
We knew it was not over-much,
Not more than what beings needed
Minutely to spell being.
Oh, simpering self-awe,
The pretense of never having meant this!
Let us not mock our own sincerity.
Who has forgotten how we first began
To take ourselves to pieces?

Laura Riding