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Poem by Charles Mackay
The Poet and the Political Economist
A DIALOGUE. THE POLITICAL ECONOMIST. Prithee, Poet, why this spinning, Spinning verses all the day? Vain and idle thy vocation, Ч Thy art useless to the nation, In thy labor and thy play. Little doth the world esteem thee, And it takes thee at thy worth; Loftiest rhyme that e'er was fashion'd, Sounding, gorgeous, or impassion'd, Is a drug upon the earth. Go Ч and be a cotton-spinner; Put thy hand upon the spade; Weave a basket out of willow; Dig the mine, or sail the billow Ч Anything but such a trade. THE POET. Why thy scorn, O man of logic? Speak of that within thy ken; I despise thee not; Ч thy labors, If they make us better neighbors, Are not valueless to men. Highly all the world esteems thee, And a poet may declare, That the wise should place reliance On the efforts of thy science To diminish human care. Bring thy hidden truth to daylight, And I'll ne'er complain of thee; Dull thou'rt call'd Ч and dullness cumbers, Yet there's wisdom in thy numbers; Leave my numbers unto me. Each of us fulfills a duty, And, though scorn'd, I'll cling to mine, With a passion ever growing, In my heart to overflowing; Ч Cling thou with as much to thine. Thou'rt a preacher; I'm a prophet; Thou discoursest to thy time; I discourse to generations; And the thoughts of unborn nations Shall be fashion'd by my rhyme. Thou , to dubious politicians, Staid, and passionless, and slow, Givest pros and cons with candor, Bland and patient, ever blander As thy trim deductions flow. I send forth electric flashes To the bosom of the crowd; Rule its pulses, cheer its sadness, Make it throb and pant with gladness, Till it answers me aloud. Not for me to linger idly, Gathering garlands by the way; Singing but of flowers and sunsets, Lovers' vows, or nightly onsets, Or of ladies fair as May. No, the poet loves his calling, Nature's lyre is all his own; He can sweep its strings prophetic, Till the nations, sympathetic, Gather breathless to its tone. For he knows the People listen When a mighty spirit speaks, And that none can stir them duly But the man that loves them truly, And from them his impulse seeks. What they feel, but cannot utter; What they hope for day and night; Ч These the words by which he fires them, Prompts them, leads them, and inspires them To do battle for the right. These the words by which the many Cope for justice with the few; Ч These their watchwords, when oppression Would resist the small concession But a fraction of their due. These the poet, music-hearted, Blazons to the listening land; And for these all lands shall prize him, Though the foolish may despise him, Or the wise misunderstand. Go thy way, then, man of logic, In thy fashion, speak thy truth; Ч Thou hast fix'd, and I have chosen; Ч Thou shalt speak to blood that's frozen, I to vigor and to youth. Haply we shall both be useful, And, perchance, more useful thou, If their full degree of merit Unto other moods of spirit Thou wilt cherfully allow. As for me, I fear no scorning, And shall speak with earnest mind What is in me; Ч self-rewarded If I aid, though unregarded, The advancement of my kind.
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