Words, Words, Words: (To One Who Flouted Them as Vain)

I.

AM I not weary of them as your heart
Or ever Hamlet’s was ? — the empty ones,
Mere breath of passing air, mere hollow tones
That idle winds to broken reeds impart.
Have they not cursed my life ? — sounds I mistook
For sacred verities, — love, faith, delight,
And the sweet tales that women tell at night,
When darkness hides the falsehood of the look.
I was the one of all Ulysses’ crew
(What time he stopped their ears) that leaped and fled
Unto the sirens, for the honey-dew
Of their dear songs. The poets me have fed
With the same poisoned fruit. And even you, —
Did you not pluck them for me in days dead ?

II.

Nay, they do bear a blessing and a power, —
Great words and true, that bridge from soul to soul
The awful cloud-depths that betwixt us roll.
I will not have them so blasphemed. This hour,
This little hour of life, this lean to-day, —
What were it worth but for those mighty dreams
That sweep from down the past on sounding streams
Of such high-thoughted words as poets say ?
What, but for Shakespeare’s and for Homer’s lay,
And bards whose sacred names all lips repeat ?
Words, — only words ; yet, save for tongue and pen
Of those great givers of them unto men,
And burdens they still bear of grave or sweet,
This world were but for beasts, a darkling den.
Andrew Hedbrooke.