I know part of this poem, and I thought it was titled "The Finished Man", but no search has turned up with that title or the first line, which I'm sure about. (I already looked through all the other postings to see if anyone else mentioned this poem, UNLIKE all those old ladies who want to wear purple!
If anyone knows the author of this poem or the rest of it, please let me know!
"of the four louts who threw him off the dock,
three are now dead, and so more faintly mock
the way he coughed and spluttered and was afraid;
his memory of the fourth begins to fade.
It was himself whom he could not forgive,
yet is has been a comfort to outlive
the woman who, stunned by his appalling gaffe,
with her napkin, half suppressed her laugh.
Or that old gray colleague who,...
(...) I forget the rest, until the last line...
if the dead will die
if he can but forget,
if money talks-
He may be perfect yet."
A Finished Man
by Richard Wilbur
Of the four louts who threw him off the dock
Three are now dead, and so more faintly mock
The way he choked and splashed and was afraid.
His memory of the fourth begins to fade.
It was himself whom he could not forgive;
Yet it has been a comfort to outlive
That woman, stunned by his appalling gaffe,
Who with a napkin half-suppressed her laugh,
Or that grey colleague, surely gone by now,
Who, turning toward the window, raised his brow,
Embarrassed to have caught him in a lie.
All witness darkens, eye by dimming eye.
Thus he can walk today with heart at ease
Through the old quad, escorted by trustees,
To dedicate the monumental gym
A grateful college means to name for him.
Seated, he feels the warm sun sculpt his cheek
As the young president gets up to speak.
If the dead die, if he can but forget,
If money talks, he may be perfect yet.
Richard Wilbur, “A Finished Man” from Collected Poems 1943-2004