William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

Ancient Forms - Poem by William Bell Scott

Such, valued friend, you tell me these
Old forms, like pictures Japanese,
Are neat and curious, justly please;
Difficult also. Without doubt
To dance in chains, or spite of gout,
Is difficult, painful too; but that
Is weak; the thought is speech's law
And poet's bond;
He's no mere verbal acrobat.

Should every flower have but one frond,
Two blooms, three seeds, without a flaw?
The poet has some sweet thing to cry—
Well, let him speak straight from the heart,
And so its fairest shades impart
Spontaneous speech sets faith at ease:

But full-grown men now take small part
In our linguistic filagrees,
Our squeezing truth into a mould,
That may but inexactly hold.
You think so too, yet tell me still
These verses unforeseen, at will
Running like a running rill,—
Verses free as if they grew,
For ears refined will scarcely do.

That is a pity, dilettanti
Sometimes of brains, not ears, are scanty;
An amateur once said to me,
‘Frame makes the picture, do you see!’
I smiled and could not quite agree—
‘But you're the painter! answered he;
So I'm the poet, born or made,
And were I not the least afraid,
To show my great hope quite unfurled,
I'd say we write for all the world.

Oh, if you go so fast, so high,
Sweeping the cobwebs from the sky,
I shall no further make reply.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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