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Poem by Lewis Morris


A Cynic's Day-Dream


SOME men there be who can descry
No charm in earth or sea or sky,
Poor painful bigot souls, to whom
All sights and sounds recall the tomb,
And some who do not fear to use
God's world for tavern or for stews.
Some think it wisdom to despoil
Their years for gold and troublous toil ;
While others with cold dreams of art
Would feed the hunger of the heart,
And dilettanti dare to stand,
Eternities on either hand !

But with no one of these shall I
Make choice to live my life or die,Ч
Rather let me elect to give
What span of life is mine to live,
To honest labour, daily sought,
Crowned with the meed of patient thought ;
To precious friends for ages dead,
But loved where'er their words are read ;
To others living with us still,
Who sway the nation's mind and will
By eloquent pen or burning word,
Where hearts 'are fired and souls are stirred.
So thro' the tranquil evenings long,
Let us awake our souls with song,
Such song as comes where no words come,
And is most mighty when most dumb.
Then soar awhile on wings of art ;
Not that which chokes the vulgar mart,
But subtle hints and fancies fine,
When least completed most divine,
Sun-copies of some perfect thought,
Thro' bronze or canvas fitly wrought,
Known when in youth 'twas ours to see
Thy treasure-houses, Italy !
Then turn from these to grave debate
What change of laws befits the State,
By what wise schemes and precepts best
To raise the humble and oppressed,
And slay the twin reproach of Time,
The fiends of Ignorance and Crime.

Or what if I might come to fill
A calmer part, and dearer still,
With one attempered soul to share
The joys and ills 'tis ours to bear ;
To grow together, heart with heart,
Into a whole where each is part ;
To blend together, soul with soul,
Neither a part, but each the whole ;
With strange creative thrills to teach
The dawning mind, the growing speech,
To bind around me precious bands
Of loving hearts and childish hands,
And lose the stains of time and sense
In those clear deeps of innocence ?

So if kind fate should grant at length,
Ere frame and brain have lost their strength,
In my own country homestead dear,
To spend a portion of the year ;
What joys I'll prove if modest wealth
Should come with still unbroken health !
There, sheltered from the ruder wind,
Thro' the thick woods we'll range, to find
The spring's first flower, the autumn's fruit,
Strange fungus or misshapen root.
Mark where the wood-quist or the thrush
Builds on tall pine or hazel bush ;
See the brave bird with speckled breast
Brood fearless on the teeming nest,
And bid the little hands refrain
From every act of wrong and pain.
Observe the gossip conies sit
By their own doors, the white owl flit
Thro' the dim fields, while I enjoy
The wondering talk of girl or boy.
Sweet souls, which at life's portal stand,
And all within, a wonderland
Oh, treasure of a guileless love,
Fit prelude of the joys above !

There, when the swift week nears its end,
To greet the welcome Sunday friend,
Through the still fields we'll wend our way,
To meet the guest at close of day.
And then, when little eyes in vain
Long time have sought the coming train,
A gradual distant sound, which fills
The bosom of the folded hills,
Till with white steam or ruddy light
The wayworn convoy leaps to sight,
Then stops and sets the traveller down,
Bringing the smoke and news of town.
And then the happy hours to come,
The walk or ride which leads us home,
Past the tall woods through which 'twould seem
Home's white walls hospitablygleam,
The well-served meal, the neighbour guest,
The rosy darlings curled and dressed ;
And, when the house grows silent, then
The lengthened talk on books and men ;
And on the Sunday morning still,
The pleasant stroll by wood-crowned hill
To church, wherein my eyes grow dim
Hearing my children chant the hymn ;
And seeing in their earnest look
Something of innocent icbuke,
I lose the old doubt's endless pain,
And am a little child again.

If fate should grant me such a home,
So sweet the tranquil clays would come,
I should not need, I trust, to sink
My weariness in lust or drink.
Scant pleasure should I think to gain
From endless scenes of death and pain ;
'Twould little profit me to slay
A thousand innocents a day ;
I should not much delight to tear
With wolfish clogs the shrieking hare ;
With horse and hound to track to death
A helpless wretch that gasps for breath ;
To make the fair bird check its wing,
And drop, a dying, shapeless thing ;
To leave the joy of all the wood
A mangled heap of fur and blood,
Or else escaping, but in vain,
To pine, a shattered wretch, in pain ;
Teeming, perhaps, or doomed to see
Its young brood starve in misery ;
With neither risk nor labour, still
To live for nothing but to kill
I dare not ! If perplexed I am
Between the tiger and the lamb ;
If fate ordain that these shall give
Their poor brief lives that I may live :
Whate'er the law that bids them die,
Others shall butcher them, not I,
Not such my work. Surely the Lord,
Who made the devils by a word,
Not men, but those who'd wield them well
Gave these sad tortures of his Hell.

Ah ! fool and blind, to wander so ;
Who hast lived long enough to know
With what insane confusions teem
The mazes of our waking dream,Ч
The dullard surfeited with gold
His bloated coffers fail to hold,
While the keen mind and generous brain
From penury aspire in vain ;
Love's choicest treasures flung away
On some vile lump of coarsest clay ;
Pure girlhood chained to wretches foul,
Tainted in body as in soul ;
The precious love of wife or child
Not for the loving heart and mild,
But for the sullen churl, who ne'er
Knew any rule but that of fear ;
Fame, like Titania, stooping down
To set on asses' ears a crown ;
The shallow dunce, the fluent fool,
The butt and laughter of the school,
By fortune's strange caprice grown great,
A light of forum or debate ;
The carnal lump devoid of grace,
With each bad passion in his face,
A saintly idol, round whose knees
Crowd throngs of burning devotees.

Great heaven ! how strange the tangle is,
What old perplexity is this ?
The very words of my complaint,
What else are they than echoes faint
Of the full fire, the passionate scorn,
Of high-souled singers and forlorn,
Who, in our younger England, knew
No care for aught but what was true,
But loved to lash with bitter hate
The shameless vices of the great ;
Who bade, in far-off days of Rome,
In verse their indignation come ;
Who, when we learn the secrets hid
Beneath the eldest Pyramid,
Or in those dim days further still,
Whose nameless ruin builds the hill,
Push back our search where'er we can,
Till first the ape became the man,
Will in rude satire bid us find
The earliest victories of mind ?
Strong souls, rebellious with their lot,
Who longed for right and found it not ;
Too strong to take things as they seem,
Too weak to comprehend the scheme,
Too deeply fired with honest trust
To dream that God might be unjust ;
Yet, seeing how unequal show
His providences here below,
By paradoxes girt about,
Grew thro' excess of faith to doubt.
Oh, faithful souls, who love the true,
Tho' all be false, yet will not you ;
Tho' wrong shall overcome the right,
Still it is hateful in your sight ;
Tho' sorely tempted, you, and tried,
The truth stands always at your side ;
Tho' falsehood wear her blandest smile,
You only she shall ne'er beguile ;
For you, 'mid spectral sights and shows,
Life blushes with a hidden rose ;
Thro' the loud din of lower things
You hear the sweep of angel wings,
And with a holy scorn possest,
Wait till these clamours sink to rest. 



                      Lewis Morris


Lewis Morris's other poems:
  1. The Reply
  2. A Yorkshire River
  3. The Living Past
  4. On an Old Minster
  5. To a Child of Fancy


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