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 Earthly Paradise: The Book Speaks to Chaucer
By William Morris (1834–1896)
 
O MASTER, O thou great of heart and tongue,
Thou well mayst ask me why I wander here,
In raiment rent of stories oft besung!
But of thy gentleness draw thou anear,
And then the heart of one who held thee dear        5
Mayst thou behold! So near as that I lay
Unto the singer of an empty day.
 
For this he ever said, who sent me forth
To seek a place amid thy company;
That howsoever little was my worth,        10
Yet was he worth e’en just so much as I;
He said that rhyme hath little skill to lie;
Nor feigned to cast his worser part away
In idle singing for an empty day.
 
I have beheld him tremble oft enough        15
At things he could not choose but trust to me,
Although he knew the world was wise and rough:
And never did he fail to let me see
His love,—his folly and faithlessness, maybe;
And still in turn I gave him voice to pray        20
Such prayers as cling about an empty day.
 
Thou, keen-eyed, reading me, mayst read him through,
For surely little is there left behind;
No power great deeds unnameable to do;
No knowledge for which words he may not find,        25
No love of things as vague as autumn wind—
Earth of the earth lies hidden by my clay,
The idle singer of an empty day!
 
Children we twain are, saith he, late made wise
In love, but in all else most childish still,        30
And seeking still the pleasure of our eyes,
And what our ears with sweetest sounds may fill;
Not fearing Love, lest these things he should kill;
Howe’er his pain by pleasure doth he lay,
Making a strange tale of an empty day.        35
 
Death have we hated, knowing not what it meant;
Life have we loved, through green leaf and through sere,
Though still the less we knew of its intent:
The Earth and Heaven through countless year on year,
Slow changing, were to us but curtains fair,        40
Hung round about a little room, where play
Weeping and laughter of man’s empty day.
 
O Master, if thine heart could love us yet,
Spite of things left undone, and wrongly done,
Some place in loving hearts then should we get,        45
For thou, sweet-souled, didst never stand alone,
But knew’st the joy and woe of many an one—
By lovers dead, who live through thee, we pray,
Help thou us singers of an empty day!
 
 
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