What magic will you find to stir
The limp and languid listener?
Will it be daring and dramatic?
Will it be frankly democratic?
Will Pegasus return again
In guise of modern aeroplane,
Descending from a cloudless blue
To drop on us a bomb or two?
I know not. Far be it from me
To darken dark futurity;
Still less to render more perplexed
The last vagary, or the next.
Leave Pindus Hill to those who list,
Iconoclast or anarchist --
So be it. “They that break shall pay.”
I stand upon the ancient way.
I hold it for a certain thing,
That, blank or rhyming, song must sing;
And more, that what is good for verse,
Need not, by dint of rhyme, frow worse.
I hold that they who deal in rhyme
Must take the standpoint of the time --
But not to catch the public ear,
As mountebank or pulpiteer;
That the old notes are still the new,
If the musician’s touch be true --
Nor can the hand that knows its trade
Achieve the trite and ready-made;
That your first theme is Human Life,
Its hopes and fears, its love and strife --
A theme no custom can efface,
Common, but never commonplace;
For this, beyond all doubt, is plain:
The Truth that pleased will please again,
And move men as in bygone years
When Hector’s wife smiled through her tears.