How sweet are the sounds of the popular voice
In an ex-ministerial ear!
How surely I know that the national choice
Must go with the noisiest cheer!
As I gaze upon votaries faithful as those,
And their incense of worship ascends,
I forget for a moment the malice of foes
And — still better — the coldness of friends.
I feel I am great, and I know I am good,
And no longer regret my position
As statesman who's taken to chopping of wood
And abandoned the paths of ambition.
Is it vanity prompting me? is it self-love?
Can I, safe in my conscience, decide
That it is not such feelings my bosom that move?
Yes ... I think it's legitimate pride.
I am not — or I hope not — a lover of praise;
I am humble — I hope so at least.
It will do me no harm — on occasional days —
Such a rich popularity-feast.
For perhaps I am great, and I think I am good,
And it's surely a mark of submission
To take, though a statesman, to chopping of wood,
And abandon the paths of ambition.
[He strikes a few more blows with his axe: then again
pauses. The cheering is renewed.]
How simple I look! how unconsciously grand,
As I rest from my toil for a space,
With my waistcoat thrown off, and my axe in my hand,
And humanity's dew on my face!
Oh, my brethren in toil, who stand wond'ring around,
By what ties have I bound you to me!
An orator, scholar, and statesman renowned,
Condescending to cut down a tree!
Yes, I know I am great, something tells me I'm good;
And I feel it's a lofty position,
A statesman's, who's taken to chopping of wood,
And forsaken the paths of ambition.
[He gazes round him for a few moments with visibly
The consular woodman! this citizen-host!
Could the old world's imperial queen
In the days of her early simplicity boast
A more nobly republican scene?
Let me think, as I watch the admirers who note
The simple pursuits of my home,
Of Lucius Quinctius summoned by vote
Of the State from the furrow to Rome.
Yes, I feel I am great, and I know I am good,
And I'm greater by far, with submission,
As statesman, when occupied chopping of wood
Than when treading the paths of ambition.
But Rome? Is it Roman or Greek that's recalled?
'Tis the heroes so dear to my pen,
Pelides, whose war-cry the Trojans appalled,
Agamemnon the leader of men.
For have I not led men aright when astray?
Turned them back from the false to the true?
And do not the Tories and Turks with dismay
Recollect what my war-cry can do?
Yes, yes, I am great, and I surely am good,
Or I could not endure the position
Of statesman resigned to the chopping of wood,
And renouncing the paths of ambition.
But both Roman dictator and Danaan chief
In one cardinal point I excel,
For I am — as I hazard the humble belief —
Conscientiously Christian as well.
And content with all this, let detractors repeat —
As with angry persistence they do —
That my claim to their homage I p'r'aps might complete
Were I only an Englishman too.
Let them rave — I am great; let them sneer — I am good;
And they vex not the happy condition
Of statesmen who, taking to chopping of wood,
Have abandoned the paths of ambition.
Pall Mall Gazette.