NOT thine where marble-still and white
Old statues share the tempered light
And mock the uneven modern flight,
But in the stream
Of daily sorrow and delight
To seek a theme.
I too, O friend, have steeled my heart
Boldly to choose the better part,
To leave the beaten ways of art,
And wholly free
To dare, beyond the scanty chart,
The deeper sea.
All vain restrictions left behind,
Frail bark! I loose my anchored mind
And large, before the prosperous wind
Desert the strand –
A new Columbus sworn to find
The morning land.
Nor too ambitious, friend. To thee
I own my weakness. Not for me
To sing the enfranchised nations’ glee,
Or count the cost
Of warships foundered far at sea
And battles lost.
High on the far-seen, sunny hills,
Morning-content my bosom fills;
Well-pleased, I trace the wandering rills
And learn their birth.
Far off, the clash of sovereign wills
May shake the earth.
The nimble circuit of the wheel,
The uncertain poise of merchant weal,
Heaven of famine, fire and steel
When nations fall;
These, heedful, from afar I feel –
I mark them all.
But not, my friend, not these I sing,
My voice shall fill a narrower ring.
Tired souls, that flag upon the wing,
I seek to cheer:
Brave wines to strengthen hope I bring,
Some song that shall be suppling oil
To weary muscles strained with toil,
Shall hearten for the daily moil,
Or widely read
Make sweet for him that tills the soil
His daily bread.
Such songs in my flushed hours I dream
(High thought) instead of armour gleam
Or warrior cantos ream by ream
To load the shelves –
Songs with a lilt of words, that seem
To sing themselves.