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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Helen Thayer Hutcheson (1860–1886)

The Fools’ Waltz

NEARER and clearer than monarch and minister,

Rabble and gabble, and hypocrites sinister,

Warriors and sages of far-away ages,

Are the Fools that flit through the historical pages.

They gazed somewhat dazed through their patches and powder,

They wondered and blundered and ever laughed louder;

While crown tumbled down, and while creed flew to pieces,

Their range was the change of their daily caprices.

While savage did ravage and bigotry tortured,

They rambled or gambled, or planted an orchard.

They clicked the light heel in the strathspey and reel,

Built castles, held wassails, chased moths, and played tennis;

Broke the lance for fair France, and went masked in gay Venice.

They spent as they went, and were reckless of rules,

Bade defiance to science, and scoffed at the schools,

Had their flings at their kings, and were pert to the proudest;

Must joke if they spoke, and themselves laughed the loudest;

Winking and wooing, whatever was doing,

Though storms of reforms and rebellions were brewing,

Talking and mocking the age that they grew in,

They quaffed the gay draught round the red fires of ruin.

Smiling and sneering, they flit out of hearing,

They bow themselves airily out of our pages;

No sound underground of their jesting and jeering,

The dear little Fools of the far-away ages!

Can marble rest heavy on all that gay bevy,

Who parted light-hearted, and knew no returning?

Are there ghosts full of laughter that haunt the hereafter,

Too mocking for bliss and too merry for burning?

Remember—forget them—it never will fret them,

Who gibed at misfortune whenever she met them;

At joust and at revel cast care to the devil,

And lived all their lives on whoever would let them.

Concede them the meed that is due the departed!

Slight thinker, deep drinker, lax friend and light lover;

A tear not too tender, for they were light-hearted;

A laugh not too loud, for their laughter is over;

A prayer light as air for the dead and gone Fools,

Too light and too slight to be tyrants or tools!

Who with jest and with zest took the world as they found it;—

Perhaps they did best just by dancing around it!