John Drinkwater

The Loom of the Poets



They who are sceptred of the poets' race
 Their high dominion bear by this alone—
 That they report the world as they have known
The world, nor seek with slavish hands to trace
Poor profitable smiles upon the face
 Of truth when smiles are none, nor fear to own
 The bitterness of beauty overthrown,
But hold in hate the gilded lie's disgrace.

And such are you, O singer of the gloom
 Where-through in travail you have slowly won:
Albeit your song is heavy with the doom
 Of men whose little strivings are foredone,
Yet is it woven on the living loom
 Of your own suffering beneath the sun.


And herein lies great solace. Who shall say
 If this austere and lonely utterance
 Be closer knit to truth than theirs who dance
With happy hearts along the laughing way?
Or matters it? We know that you as they
 Tell of the truth as you have seen it glance
 Across the shadowed tracks of fate and chance,
At best a fitful promise of the day.

Great patience must be ours ere we may know
 The secrets held by labyrinthine time;
The ways are rough, the journeying is slow,
 The perils deep,—till we have conquered these
And break at length upon the golden clime
 He serves us best who sings but as he sees.