Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
Realism
 
Arthur Christopher Benson (1862–1925)
 
 
AND truth, you say, is all divine;
  ’T is truth we live by; let her drench
The shuddering heart like potent wine;
  No matter how she wreck or wrench
 
The gracious instincts from their throne,        5
  Or steep the virgin soul in tears;—
No matter; let her learn her own
  Enormities, her vilest fears,
 
And sound the sickliest depths of crime,
  And creep through roaring drains of woe,        10
To soar at last, unstained, sublime,
  Knowing the worst that man can know;
 
And having won the firmer ground,
  When loathing quickens pity’s eyes,
Still lean and beckon underground,        15
  And tempt a struggling foot to rise.
 
Well, well, it is the stronger way!
  Heroic stuff is hardly made;
But one, who dallies with dismay,
  Admires your boldness, half-afraid.        20
 
He deems that knowledge, bitter-sweet,
  Can rust and rot the bars of right,
Till weakness sets her trembling feet
  Across the threshold of the night.
 
She peers, she ventures; growing bold,        25
  She breathes the enervating air,
And shuns the aspiring summits, cold
  And silent, where the dawn is fair.
 
She wonders, aching to be free,
  Too soft to burst the uncertain band,        30
Till chains of drear fatality
  Arrest the feeble willing hand.
 
Nay, let the stainless eye of youth
  Be blind to that bewildering light!
When faith and virtue falter, truth        35
  Is handmaid to the hags of night.
 

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