Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

A Souless Singer - Poem by Alfred Austin

Hail! throstle, by thy ringing voice descried,
Not by the wanderings of the tuneless wing!
Now once again where forkëd boughs divide,
Lost in green leafage thou dost perch and sing:
Trilling, shrilling, far and wide,
``It is Spring.''

Thy matins peal long ere the rosy dawn
Unfolds its hull and burgeons into light;
Nor cease thy vespers till from darkling lawn
The silent shadows steal away in flight,
And the star-lit tent is drawn
Round the Night.

Is it in Heaven, or mid-way of the Earth,
Thou learn'st to outvoice, outnumber all the Nine?
What is the secret of thy madcap mirth?
Wilt thou not tell it me, and make it mine?
What is all my singing worth,
Matched with thine?

If heedless mortals only understood
What the prerogatives of real renown,
Hearing thee warble in umbrageous wood,
Or in the dingles of the rolling down,
It is thou, not I, that should
Wear the Crown.

And yet perchance more deep and more divine
The insufficiency of my poor strain.
One single solitary note is thine:
Weak though they haply be, yet I have twain.
Joy is all thy song; of mine
Half is pain.

Thou with thy carol flatterest the Year
But when it frolics into happy bloom:
Only those notes hast thou, wild chanticleer,
That with their thoughtlessness can banish gloom
From its cradle; I, a tear
For its tomb.

Thou with the blossom and bud and baby leaf,
Heartless of woe, dost revel and rejoice,
But for sere sorrow and the pensive sheaf
Lackest, for all thy minstrelsy, the voice:
There are seasons when sweet grief
Is our choice.

So, throstle, be the very voice of Spring,
And bring back rapture to the wrinkled bole!
Of all life's chords joy is the leading string,
And happiness is much, but not the whole.
Leave it then to me to sing
To the soul!


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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