He could neither for rank nor for height hope...
Not for fame and not for payment
In his odd style, without a swerve
All through life he's been walking a tightrope,
Not the pavement, not the pavement -
A tightrope strained like a nerve.

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But he clearly needs, needs to make it today
Through these four quarters of the way.

Lights were throwing off-step and would pierce
Worse than laurels, sharp and nimble.
The trumpet was going insane...
Shouts "Bravo!" kept blasting his ears,
And the cymbal, and the cymbal
Was hammering into his brain!

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But he now has less, less to walk, less to sway -
Already three quarters of the way.

"Ah! How awful, how lovely, how daring!
Death-defying! Just three minutes!"
Mouths open in wait and in fright,
>From the pit were gloomily staring
Tiny midgets... Tiny midgets
They appeared to him from his height.

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But calm down! He's now to balance his weight
For just two quarters of the way!

He would mock fleeting fame, but aspired
To be first, with all his might strove -
Try breaking his kind into crumbs!
It was our nerves, not the wire,
Not the tightrope, not the tightrope,
That he walked to the roll of the drums!

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But be still! There remains at the end of the day
No more than a quarter of the way!

Screamed the tamer, and animals scurried,
To the stretcher their paws thrust...
But the verdict is simple and blunt:
Whether he was assured or worried,
Into sawdust, into sawdust
He spilled his vexation and blood!

Someone else takes his route
Now, without a net.
Slender cord underfoot...
He will fall, he'll regret!
Leaning right, leaning left -
He is doomed anyway...
But he too, for some reason, must make it today
Through all four quarters of the way!

1972