Among the Millet

by Archibald Lampman


 

WHAT DO POETS WANT WITH GOLD?


 

What do poets want with gold,
    Cringing slaves and cushioned ease;
Are not crusts and garments old
    Better for their souls than these?

Gold is but the juggling rod                                                         5
Of a false usurping god,
Graven long ago in hell
With a sombre stony spell,
Working in the world forever.
Hate is not so strong to sever                                                   10
Beating human heart from heart.
Soul from soul we shrink and part,
And no longer hail each other
With the ancient name of brother
Give the simple poet gold,                                                        15
And his song will die of cold.
He must walk with men that reel
On the rugged path, and feel
Every sacred soul that is
Beating very near to his.                                                            20
Simple, human, careless, free,
As God made him, he must be:
For the sweetest song of bird
Is the hidden tenor heard
In the dusk, an even-flush,                                                          25
From the forest’s inner hush,
Of the simple hermit thrush.

What do poets want with love?
    Flowers that shiver out of hand,
And the fervid fruits that prove                                                  30
    Only bitter broken sand?

Poets speak of passion best,
When their dreams are undistressed,
And the sweetest songs are sung,
E’er the inner heart is stung.                                                     35
Let them dream; ’tis better so;
Ever dream, but never know.
If the their spirits once have drained
All that goblet crimson-stained,
Finding what they dreamed divine,                                          40
Only earthly sluggish wine,
Sooner will the warm lips pale,
And the flawless voices fail,
Sooner come the drooping wing,
And the afterdays that bring,                                                    45
No such songs as did the spring.