John Boyle O'Reilly
Songs That Are Not Sung - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly
DO not praise: a smile is payment more than meet for what is done;
Who shall paint the mote's glad raiment floating in the molten sun?
Nay, nor smile, for blind is eyesight, ears may hear not, lips are dumb;
From the silence, from the twilight, wordless but complete they come.
Songs were born before the singer : like white souls awaiting birth,
They abide the chosen bringer of their melody to earth.
Deep the pain of our demerit: strings so rude or rudely strung,
Dull to every pleading spirit seeking speech but sent unsung;
Round our hearts with gentle breathing still the plaintive silence plays,
But we brush away its wreathing, filled with cares of common days.
Ever thinking of the morrow, burdened down with cares and needs,
Once or twice, mayhap, in sorrow, we may hear the song that pleads;
Once or twice, a dreaming poet sees the beauty as it flies,
But his vision who shall know it, who shall read it from his eyes?
Voiceless he,—his necromancy fails to cage the wondrous bird;
Lure and snare are vain when fancy flies like echo from a word.
Only sometime he may sing it, using speech as 'twere a bell,
Not to read the song but ring it, like the sea-tone from a shell.
Sometimes, too, it comes and lingers round the strings all still and mute,
Till some lover's trembling fingers draw it living from the lute.
Still, our best is but a vision which a lightning-flash illumes,
Just a gleam of life elysian flung across the voiceless glooms.
Why should gleams perplex and move us? Must the soul still upward grow
To the beauty far above us and the songs no sense may know?
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