Baalbek

        In Memory of George Rock
     of the American Field Service


The steps go up, the marble flights
     Rise to an absent place;
Nothing is here but tumbled heights
     And the memory of your face.

This you believed in, worshipped, held
     Somehow was sacred, true -
A vacancy of stone compelled
     Wonder to grow in you.

The godless plinth, the shattered frieze,
     Inscriptions breaking off,
Columns cast low like limestone trees -
     These did not summon grief.

No, all was as it should be now,
     All was immortal time,
And beautiful like distant snow
     There where the mountains climb.

You loved these temples battered down
     By earthquake, and their grace
Spoke to you in the acanthus crown
     Of friends you could not trace.

They, on a sunlit day, warred round
    Apollo’s empty shrine;
Then passed to where the young abound,
    Dead at the battle line.

But you, still vanquished by the loss
    Of those you reached too late,
Stood, pensive on the Syrian moss,
    With Greece to contemplate.

Where had they gone, the soldiers whom
    Your ambulance had brought
Not back to life but to the room
    Of death after they fought?

And those who died at Marathon,
    They had not been more brave;
Yet all together, they were done
    With, deep in a dark grave.

How many thoughts perplexed you here,
    Alone in an absent place,
The ghostly soldiers, were they near?
    Did they see your face?

Alas for us, who still must find
    These temples filled with shadows, they
Can see you now in ghostly kind,
    Who were most kind to me.

Ah, George, no marbles are enough,
    Not those of Greece or Rome,
To raise a trophy to kind love,
    Which finally led you home.

So only lines like those you scanned
    In our embattled youth;
My leaves of laurel in your hand,
    Weave for a victory wreath.