In spite of all fine science disavows,
Of his plain excellence and stubborn skill
There yet remains what fashion cannot kill,
Though years have thinned the laurel from his brows.
Whether or not we read him, we can feel
Front time to time the vigor of his name
Against us like a finger for the shame
And emptiness of what our souls reveal
In books that are as altars where we kneel
To concentrate the flicker, not the flame.
Oh, for a poet—for a beacon bright
To rift this changeless glimmer of dead gray:
To spirit back the Muses, long astray,
And flush Parnassus with a newer light:
To put these little sonnet-men to flight
Who fashion, in a shrewd mechanic way,
Songs without souls that flicker for a day
To vanish in irrevocable night.
What does it mean, this barren age of ours?
Here are the men, the women, and the flowers,—
The seasons, and the sunset, as before.
What does it mean?—Shall not one bard arise
To wrench one banner from the western skies,
And mark it with his name for evermore?
Alone, remote, nor witting where I went,
I found an altar builded in a dream—
A fiery place, whereof there was a gleam
So swift, so searching, and so eloquent
Of upward promise that love's murmur, blent
With sorrow's warning, gave but a supreme
Unending impulse to that human stream
Whose flood was all for the flame's fury bent.