Aye! verily, the fields of blandishment
Where shepherds meditate among their cattle,
Those are the direst of the fields of battle,
For in the victor’s train there is no tent.
Where are the doctors who were nobly fired
And loved their toil because we ventured not,
Who spent their lives in searching for the spot
To which the generations have retired?
“Great is your soul,”—these
are the words they preach,—
“It passes from your framework to the frame
Of others, and upon this road of shame
Turns purer and more pure.”—Oh, let them teach!
I look on men as I would look on trees,
That may be writing in the purple dome
Romantic lines of black, and are at home
Where lie the little garden hostelries.
Live well! Be wary of this life, I say;
Do not o’erload yourself with righteousness.
Behold! the sword we polish in excess,
We gradually polish it away.
God who created metal is the same
Who will devour it. As the warriors ride
With iron horses and with iron pride—
Come, let us laugh into the merry flame.
But for the grandest flame our God prepares
The breast of man, which is the grandest urn;
Yet is that flame so powerless to burn
Those butterflies, the swarm of little cares.
And if you find a solitary sage
Who teaches what is truth—ah, then you find
The lord of men, the guardian of the wind,
The victor of all armies and of age.
See that procession passing down the street,
The black and white procession of the days—
Far better dance along and bawl your praise
Than if you follow with unwilling feet.
But in the noisy ranks you will forget
What is the flag. Oh, comrade, fall aside
And think a little moment of the pride
Of yonder sun, think of the twilight’s net.
The songs we fashion from our new delight
Are echoes. When the first of men sang out,
He shuddered, hearing not alone the shout
Of hills but of the peoples in the night.
And all the marvels that our eyes behold
Are pictures. There has happened some event
For each of them, and this they represent—
Our lives are like a tale that has been told.