Archive for January 19th, 2020

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Old Ballad-Maker by William Freeland

They triumph in their giddy spheres,
The fashionable fools of time;
They lend no sweetness to the years,
Yet live in many a brazen rhyme —
For thee, dear Rhymer, not one chime.

Yea, one — I give thee one, old friend;
Not loud that all the world may hear,
But true — truth never hath an end,
Like fawning words that please the ear
One silly hour, then disappear.

Thy name and fame! If known to three
True-hearted comrades of the clan,
What need’st thou more for time to be —
The ring-like history of man.
That ever ends where it began?

Had any man a kindly heart?
It was not kindlier than thine ;
Or nobler — though, by tricks of art,
Base pebbles from a shallow mine,
Being set in gauds, like jewels shine.

Had any Sage the art of truth?
That art was thine, with all its pains;
In age, as in thy fervent youth,
Thou scorned’st the fruitful lie, whose gains
Are curses worse than galling chains.

So came it that the slaves of writ
Scourged thee, but could not break thy mind;
For wickedness, thou gav’st them wit,
And sent them limping to their kind.
The mean of heart, the halt and blind.

So came it that when death drew near,
He did not dare to strike thee dead,
But paused, as one in doubt and fear;
And when he turned, thy soul had sped,
Snatched by the Spirit of Life instead.

Wherefore I mourn thee not at all,
For still thou livest, sweet and whole,
No spoil of any fiend, or thrall:
The holy heavens alone control
The poet’s song, the poet’s soul!

Thou shinest ‘mong the good and great.
Old ballad-maker, true and good.
Exalted above fame and state,
And flattering friend and foeman rude:
Poet by poets understood.

From: Freeland, William and Johnston, Henry (ed.), Ballads & Other Poems, 1904, James MacLehose and Sons: Glasgow, pp. 79-80.

Date: 1904 (published)

William Freeland (1828-1903)