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Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism 1883-1908 . Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858–1924.
page: 12


  • ONE stood with his face to the light;
  • He held a sceptre of song
  • That ruled men’s souls till they strove to the right,
  • And set their feet on the wrong.
page: 13
  • ‘I am but a slave,’ he said,
  • ‘The servant of man am I,
  • To sing of the life that is more than bread,
  • And the deaths that are life to die.
  • ‘And the might of my song shall sway
  • The millions who sit in shame,
  • Till they cast their idols of gold away,
  • And worship the true God’s name.’
  • So he sang, and the nations heard
  • Through their drunken sleep of years,
  • And their limbs in their golden fetters stirred
  • As he sang to their drowsy ears.
  • Hope woke, in her spellbound bowers,
  • And gave heed to each clear keen word,
  • Till Love looked out from a net of flowers,
  • And called to his heart—and he heard.
  • And his song rose higher, more sweet,
  • As his dreams rose more sweet, more high:
  • ‘’Tis Love shall aid me, and shall complete
  • The spell I shall conquer by!
  • ‘We two to men’s souls will sing,
  • And the work shall be ours, be ours;
  • Together welcome the thorns that bring
  • More fruit than the sweetest flowers!’
  • But the woman he loved said ‘No!
  • To me all your soul is due,
  • Can I share with a world, whatever its woe,
  • My heart’s one treasure, you?
  • ‘There are plenty to sing of the right
  • And give their lives for the truth—
  • But you are mine, and shall sing delight,
  • And beauty, and love, and youth.
page: 14
  • ‘For these are the songs men love,
  • These stir their dull brains like wine.
  • They hate the songs you were proudest of
  • In the days when you were not mine.
  • ‘And if for the world you sing
  • It will pay you with fame and gold,
  • And the fame and the gold to me you shall bring
  • For my heart and my hands to hold.
  • ‘Besides—what steads it to try,
  • One man against all the rest?
  • Let the world and its rights and its wrongs go by,
  • And hide your eyes on my breast!’
  • Then the man bowed down his head
  • And she crowned him with roses sweet;
  • And he laboured for fame and bread,
  • And laid his wage at her feet.
  • And the millions who starve and sin,
  • He shut them out of his life
  • Where she was alone shut in—
  • His ruin, his prize, his wife.
  • And all that he might have been,
  • And all that he might have done,
  • These lie with the things that shall not be seen
  • For ever under the sun.
  • His children play round his knee,
  • But he sighs as they come and go—
  • For they speak of visions he cannot see,
  • In a tongue that he used to know.
  • He sings of love and of flowers,
  • And forgets what they used to mean,
  • For gold is lord of his empty hours,
  • And fame of his soul is queen.
page: 15
  • And the woman has long possessed
  • What she bade him win for her sake;
  • But she holds with the gold accurst unrest,
  • And the fame with a wild heart‐ache.
  • For the light in her eyes is dim,
  • Or dim are his eyes that gaze.
  • There is no light that can light for him
  • The gloom of his sordid days.
  • He will die, and his name be enrolled
  • Where marble makes mock of clay;
  • (Oh, the pitiful clay, made brave with gold!)
  • And there let it rot away!