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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Sir Edmund William Gosse 1849–1928



IN these restrained and careful times

Our knowledge petrifies our rhymes;

Ah! for that reckless fire men had

When it was witty to be mad,

When wild conceits were piled in scores,

And lit by flaring metaphors,

When all was crazed and out of tune,—

Yet throbbed with music of the moon.

If we could dare to write as ill

As some whose voices haunt us still,

Even we, perchance, might call our own

Their deep enchanting undertone.

We are too diffident and nice,

Too learnéd and too over-wise,

Too much afraid of faults to be

The flutes of bold sincerity.

For, as this sweet life passes by,

We blink and nod with critic eye;

We ’ve no words rude enough to give

Its charm so frank and fugitive.

The green and scarlet of the Park,

The undulating streets at dark,

The brown smoke blown across the blue,

This colored city we walk through;—

The pallid faces full of pain,

The field-smell of the passing wain,

The laughter, longing, perfume, strife,

The daily spectacle of life;—

Ah! how shall this be given to rhyme,

By rhymesters of a knowing time?

Ah! for the age when verse was glad,

Being godlike, to be bad and mad.