has kindly shared the material
from his Robert Buchanan site with readers of the
Why should the heart seem stiller,
As the song grows stronger and surer?
Why should the brain grow chiller,
And the utterance clearer and purer?
To lose what the people are gaining
Seems often bitter as gall,
Though to sink in the proud attaining
Were the bitterest of all.
I would to God I were lying
Yonder 'mong mountains blue,
Chasing the morn with flying
Feet in the morning dew!
Longing, and aching, and burning
To conquer, to sing, and to teach,
A passionate face upturning
To visions beyond my reach, —
But with never a feeling or yearning
I could utter in tuneful speech!
Yea! that were a joy more stable
Than all that my soul hath found, —
Than to see and to know, and be able
To utter the seeing in sound;
For Art, the Angel of losses,
Comes, with her still, gray eyes,
Coldly my forehead crosses,
Whispers to make me wise;
And, too late, comes the revelation,
After the feast and the play,
That she works God's dispensation
By cruelly taking away:
By burning the heart and steeling,
Scorching the spirit deep,
And changing the flower of feeling,
To a poor dried flower that may keep!
What wonder if much seems hollow,
The passion, the wonder dies;
And I hate the angel I follow,
And shrink from her passionless eyes, —
Who, instead of the rapture of being
I held as the poet's dower —
Instead of the glory of seeing,
The impulse, the splendour, the power —
Instead of merrily blowing
A trumpet proclaiming the day,
Gives, for her sole bestowing,
A pipe whereon to play!
While the spirit of boyhood hath faded,
And never again can be,
And the singing seemeth degraded,
Since the glory hath gone from me, —
Though the glory around me and under,
And the earth and the air and the sea,
And the manifold music and wonder,
Are grand as they used to be!
Is there a consolation
For the joy that comes never again?
Is there a reservation?
Is there a refuge from pain?
Is there a gleam of gladness
To still the grief and the stinging?
Only the sweet, strange sadness,
That is the source of the singing.
For the sound of the city is weary,
As the people pass to and fro,
And the friendless faces are dreary,
As they come, and thrill through us, and go;
And the ties that bind us the nearest
Of our error and weakness are born;
And our dear ones ever love dearest
Those parts of ourselves that we scorn;
And the weariness will not be spoken,
And the bitterness dare not be said,
The silence of souls is unbroken,
And we hide ourselves from our Dead!
And what, then, secures us from madness?
Dear ones, or fortune, or fame?
Only the sweet singing sadness
Cometh between us and shame.
And there dawneth a time to the Poet,
When the bitterness passes away,
With none but his God to know it,
He kneels in the dark to pray;
And the prayer is turn'd into singing,
And the singing findeth a tongue,
And Art, with her cold hands clinging,
Comforts the soul she has stung.
Then the Poet, holding her to him,
Findeth his loss is his gain:
The sweet singing sadness thrills through him,
Though nought of the glory remain;
And the awful sound of the city,
And the terrible faces around,
Take a truer, tenderer pity,
And pass into sweetness and sound;
The mystery deepens to thunder,
Strange vanishings gleam from the cloud,
And the Poet, with pale lips asunder,
Stricken, and smitten, and bow'd,
Starteth at times from his wonder,
And sendeth his Soul up aloud!
(From London Poems, 1866-70)
Last modified 26 September 2002