Verse > Anthologies > Walter Murdoch, comp. > The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
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Walter Murdoch (1874–1970).  The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse.  1918.
 
84. The Poet
 
By Bernard O’Dowd
 
 
THEY tell you the poet is useless and empty the sound of his lyre,
That science has made him a phantom, and thinned to a shadow his fire:
Yet reformer has never demolished a dungeon or den of the foe
But the flame of the soul of a poet pulsated in every blow.
 
They tell you he hinders with tinklings, with gags from an obsolete stage,        5
The dramas of deed and the worship of Laws in a practical age:
But the deeds of to-day are the children of magical dreams he has sung,
And the Laws are ineffable Fires that from niggardly heaven he wrung!
 
The bosoms of women he sang of are heaving to-day in our maids:
The God that he drew from the Silence our woes or our weariness aids:        10
Not a maxim has needled through Time, but a poet had feathered its shaft,
Not a law is a boon to the people but he has dictated its draft.
 
And why do we fight for our fellows? For Liberty why do we long?
Because with the core of our nerve-cells are woven the lightnings of song!
For the poet for ages illumined the animal dreams of our sires,        15
And his Thought-Become-Flesh is the matrix of all our unselfish desires!
 
Yea, why are we fain for the Beautiful? Why should we die for the Right?
Because through the forested æons, in spite of the priests of the Night,
Undeterred by the faggot or cross, uncorrupted by glory or gold,
To our mothers the poet his Vision of Goodness and Beauty has told.        20
 
When, comrades, we thrill to the message of speaker in highway or hall,
The voice of the poet is reaching the silenter poet in all:
And again, as of old, when the flames are to leap up the turrets of Wrong,
Shall the torch of the New Revolution be lit from the words of a Song!
 

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