by Laura Riding (1923)

Measure me for a burial
That my low stone may neatly say
In a precise, Euclidean way
How I am three-dimensional.

Yet can life be so thin and small?
Measure me in time. But time is strange
And still and knows no rule or change
But death and death is nothing at all.

Measure me by beauty.
But beauty is death's earliest name
For life, and life's first dying, a flame
That glimmers, an amaranth that will fade
And fade again in death's dim shade.

Measure me not by beauty, that fears strife.
For beauty makes peace with death, buying
Dishonor and eternal dying
That she may keep outliving life.

Measure me then by love — yet, no,
For I remember times when she
Sought her own measurements in me,
But fled, afraid I might foreshow
How broad I was myself and tall
And deep and many-measured, moving
My scale upon her and thus proving
That both of us were nothing at all.

Measure me by myself
And not by time or love or space
Or beauty. Give me this last grace:
That I may be on my low stone
A gage unto myself alone.
I would not have these old faiths fall
To prove that I was nothing at all.

Monadnock Valley Press > Riding