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Robert Graves (1895–1985). Fairies and Fusiliers. 1918.

1. To an Ungentle Critic

THE GREAT sun sinks behind the town

Through a red mist of Volnay wine.…

But what’s the use of setting down

That glorious blaze behind the town?

You’ll only skip the page, you’ll look

For newer pictures in this book;

You’ve read of sunsets rich as mine.

A fresh wind fills the evening air

With horrid crying of night birds.…

But what reads new or curious there

When cold winds fly across the air?

You’ll only frown; you’ll turn the page,

But find no glimpse of your “New Age

Of Poetry” in my worn-out words.

Must winds that cut like blades of steel

And sunsets swimming in Volnay,

The holiest, cruellest pains I feel,

Die stillborn, because old men squeal

For something new: “Write something new:

We’ve read this poem—that one too,

And twelve more like ’em yesterday”?

No, no! my chicken, I shall scrawl

Just what I fancy as I strike it,

Fairies and Fusiliers, and all

Old broken knock-kneed thought will crawl

Across my verse in the classic way.

And, sir, be careful what you say;

There are old-fashioned folk still like it.