Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Extracts from The Life and Death of Jason: Orpheus Sings to the Argonauts
By William Morris (1834–1896)
 
O DEATH, that maketh life so sweet,
O fear, with mirth before thy feet,
What have ye yet in store for us,
The conquerors, the glorious?
  Men say: “For fear that thou shouldst die        5
To-morrow, let to-day pass by
Flower-crowned and singing;” yet have we
Passed our to-day upon the sea,
Or in a poisonous unknown land,
With fear and death on either hand,        10
And listless when the day was done
Have scarcely hoped to see the sun
Dawn on the morrow of the earth,
Nor in our hearts have thought of mirth.
And while the world lasts, scarce again        15
Shall any sons of men bear pain
Like we have borne, yet be alive.
  So surely not in vain we strive
Like other men for our reward;
Sweet peace and deep, the chequered sward        20
Beneath the ancient mulberry-trees,
The smooth-paved gilded palaces,
Where the shy thin-clad damsels sweet
Make music with their gold-ringed feet.
The fountain court amidst of it,        25
Where the short-haired slave maidens sit,
While on the veined pavement lie
The honied things and spicery
Their arms have borne from out the town.
  The dancers on the thymy down        30
In summer twilight, when the earth
Is still of all things but their mirth,
And echoes borne upon the wind
Of others in like way entwined.
  The merchant town’s fair market-place        35
Where over many a changing face
The pigeons of the temple flit,
And still the outland merchants sit
Like kings above their merchandise,
Lying to foolish men and wise.        40
  Ah! if they heard that we were come
Into the bay, and bringing home
That which all men have talked about,
Some men with rage, and some with doubt,
Some with desire, and some with praise;        45
Then would the people throng the ways,
Nor heed the outland merchandise,
Nor any talk, from fools or wise,
But tales of our accomplished quest.
  What soul within the house shall rest        50
When we come home? The wily king
Shall leave his throne to see the thing;
No man shall keep the landward gate,
The hurried traveller shall wait
Until our bulwarks graze the quay,        55
Unslain the milk-white bull shall be
Beside the quivering altar-flame;
Scarce shall the maiden clasp for shame
Over her breast the raiment thin
The morn that Argo cometh in.        60
  Then cometh happy life again
That prayeth well our toil and pain
In that sweet hour, when all our woe
But as a pensive tale we know,
Nor yet remember deadly fear;        65
For surely now if death be near,
Unthought-of is it, and unseen
When sweet is, that hath bitter been.
 
 
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