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Poem by Edwin Arnold

An Apology

Our name should be a name for hope to utter,
A watchword for the chosen of the land;
A bloodless nation-flag, beneath whose flutter
The earnest soldiers of the earth should stand.

But gentle eyes look doubtingly upon us,
Warmest of hearts are cold if we be nigh;
Softest of voices breathe no whisper of us,
Or link it with a sweet condemning sigh.

It may be that they read our purpose wrongly,
And ere they learn to know them, learn to fear
The unresting hands, which silently, but strongly,
Carve the broad pathway of the coming year.

If'tis a dream to seek in bonds unbreaking,
To link the many-peopled homes of Earth-
One God, one law, one love, one worship taking,
Then, statesman, curl the lip in cynic mirth.

If'tis a crime to ask for youth's deep yearning,
Access unpurchased to those great old books,
Where the soul's thirst is slaked with draughts of learning;
Then, noble, we have earned those bitter looks.

If it be mad to beg for starving beauty
Some other home than the rude glaring streets-
Some other love than false love's fearful duty-
Some other bread than that the harlot eats;

Look sadly on us, lady! they will borrow
Tales of wild wickedness to lie to thee;
Will stain our fame with many a tale of horror,
And treason done to woman's majesty.

They call us godless-ay! we hold not holy
The golden God, for whom they lick the dust;
Fools and unwise! what hope is left the lowly,
Save the dear God whose love they know and trust.

Therefore believe them not: the deed that frightens
One blush into thy cheek-the words that shame
One tear into the eye that Pity brightens,
Is not of us-wears not our holy name. 

Edwin Arnold

Edwin Arnold's other poems:
  1. With a Bracelet in the Form of a Snake
  2. The Division of Poland
  3. The Marriage
  4. The Rhine and The Moselle
  5. The Alchemist

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Anne Bradstreet An Apology ("To finish what's begun, was my intent")

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