Ode on the Source of the Clitumnus
There you are, waiting for me,
Or someone, to praise you. Propertius praised you,
Carducci praised youit isn't enough.
There you are, still bubbling away,
Filled with more fish than Nature unassisted
Cold possible contrive, and not three yards
From the highwayin short, a perfect sight.
Walden Pond, which I have never visited,
Is said to be in the same fixclogged
With cans and candy wrappers, alive with the jokes
Of tourists who drive there with no good
Idea of who this Thoreau
Might have been or why he settled in of all places
This, but who all certainly must have expected
Something a little nicer.
But wasn't the world always a messespecially
Just off, like this, Via Flaminia?
Without wanting to lay asphalt
On the last living blade of grass, one may suggest
That any beauty, over-advertised,
Inevitably perishes. Mont Blanc has not survived
Unscathed till now: then could
The Source of the Clitumnus?
No. You will grow uglier year after year
Until no one will stop to look at you,
No guidebook will mention your name, and poets
Will have ceased to read
Propertius and Carducci; the Fiats and Peugeots
Will whiz by you in their haste to see St. Mark's
Subsiding int the lagoon.
But still you will persist to rise
Miraculously from the earth, and while you do
You must be praised. Every day the world
Grows poorer as the population
Soars. There doesn't seem to be much time
Until the likeliest holocaust prevails.
Billions of us, at least,
Will die, and this fact already begins to seem
A little tiresome. So we are dyinghaven't others
Died before? Yesand that's exactly why
We must praise the Source of the Clitumnus.
Not that you are beautiful, not at all
But because you have outlived
Temples, highways, and religions, and because
You are there, waiting for us.
Tom Disch, Yes, Let's: New & Selected Poems, Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1989.