Christopher Pearse Cranch

(1815-1892 / the USA)

A Poet's Soliloquy


ON a time — not of old —
When a poet had sent out his soul and no welcome had found
Where the heart of the nation in prose stood fettered and bound
In fold upon fold —
He called back his soul who had pined for an answer afloat;
And thus in the silence of night and the pride of his spirit he wrote.

Come back, poet-thought!
For they honor thee not in thy vesture of verse and of song.
Come back — thou hast hovered about in the market too long.
In vain thou hast sought
To stem the strong current that flows from the Philistine lands.
Thou hast failed to deliver the message the practical public demands.

Come back to the heights
Of thy vision — thy love — thy Parnassus of beauty and truth,
From the valleys below where the labor of age and of youth
Has no need of thy lights;
For science has marshalled the way with a lamp of its own.
Till they woo thee with wakening love thou must follow thy pathway alone.

We have striven, have toiled,
Have pressed with the foremost to sing to the men of our time
The thought that was deepest, the lay that was lightest in rhyme.
We are baffled and foiled.
The crowd hurries on intent upon traffic and pay;
They have ears, but they hear not. What chance to be heard has the poet to-day?

So we turn from the crowd,
And we sing as we please, like the thrush far away in the woods.
They may listen or not, as they choose, to our fancies and moods
Chanted low — chanted loud,
In the sunshine and storm — 'mid the hearts that are tender or hard.
What need of applause from the world, when Art is its own reward?

Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010

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