Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Lost Shepherd Poem by Robert William Service


Ah me! How hard is destiny!
If we could only know. . . .
I bought my son from Sicily
A score of years ago;
I haled him from our sunny vale
To streets of din and squalor,
And left it to professors pale
To make of him a scholar.

Had he remained a peasant lad,
A shepherd on the hill,
like golden faun in goatskin clad
He might be singing still;
He would have made the flock his care
And lept with gay reliance
On thymy heights, unwitting there
Was such a thing as science.

He would have crooned to his guitar,
Draughts of chianti drinking;
A better destiny by far
Than reading, writing, thinking.
So bent above his books was he,
His thirst for knowledge slaking,
He did not realize that we
Are worm-food in the making.

Ambition got him in its grip
And inched him to his doom;
Fate granted him a fellowship,
Then graved for him a tomb.
"Beneath my feet I can't allow
The grass to grow," he said;
And toiled so tirelessly that now
It grows above his head.

His honour scrolls shall feed the flame,
They mean no more to me;
His ashes I with bitter blame
Will take to Sicily.
And there I'll weep with heart bereft,
By groves and sunny rills,
And wish my laughing boy I'd left
A shepherd on the hills.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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