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Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism 1883-1908 . Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858–1924.
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page: 15

II

  • One stood in the way of life
  • And said: ‘I will serve and strive
  • And never weary of strife
  • For just so long as I live.
  • ‘The sum of service I’m worth
  • I swear it, beyond recall,
  • To the mother of all, the earth,
  • To men, the brothers of all.
  • ‘I have no voice for a song,
  • No trumpet nor lyre is mine,
  • But my sword is sharp, and my arm is strong:
  • Liberty! these are thine!’
  • So he followed where high hopes led,
  • And he paused not for blame or praise,
  • But ever rejoiced to tread
  • The roughest and rightest ways.
page: 16
  • He scorned ambitions and powers,
  • Delight was to him but a word,
  • Till Love looked out from a brake a flowers
  • And called to his heart, and he heard.
  • Then the man’s whole soul cried sore:
  • ‘I am tired of patience and pain!
  • What if the lights that have gone before
  • Should be but visions and vain?
  • ‘Why should my youth be spent
  • In following a marsh‐light gleam?
  • Why should my manhood be content
  • With what may be but a dream?
  • ‘The sword I am used to wield
  • Is as much as my hands can hold,
  • I will turn aside from the battle‐field
  • To the fields where men gather gold.
  • ‘For while I carry the sword
  • I can hold neither gold nor you—
  • And the sword is heavy, and your least word
  • Is music my life sings to!’
  • But the woman who loved him spake,
  • She spake brave words with a sigh—
  • ‘Rather than drop the sword for my sake
  • Turn its point to your heart and die!
  • ‘It is better to die than live
  • If life means nothing but greed
  • To clutch the gifts that the world can give
  • And turn your back on its need.
  • ‘And I have my life‐work too,
  • A banner to bear have I;
  • Shall my flag be dragged in the dust by you,
  • Who should help me to hold it high?
page: 17
  • ‘Hard looks life’s every line
  • When the colours of love are effaced,
  • But death would be harder, O heart of mine,
  • After a life disgraced!
  • ‘And what though we never see
  • Sweet Love’s sweet fruit at its best;
  • My children’s play at your knee,
  • Your baby’s sleep at my breast?
  • ‘Only one life is ours—
  • Shall we die with no world’s work done,
  • Having covered our shame with flowers,
  • And shrunk from sight of the sun?
  • ‘No! Be the sword for him,
  • Banner of light for me—
  • Voice at the heart when the eyes grown dim,
  • “Liberty! This for thee!”’
  • Then he bowed him low at her knees,
  • And she gave him the thorny crown
  • Which whoso wears knows no rest nor ease
  • Till Death bids him lay it down.
  • And they turned, and they passed away
  • To parting, and longing, and tears,
  • To carry the sword and the flag away
  • Through the cold clean desolate years,
  • To work for the world, and to hear
  • When the long race nearly is run,
  • Like a voice in a dream, a voice most dear,
  • ‘Faithful and good, well done!’
  • And no man remembers his name,
  • Nor hers, who was never his wife.
  • Their names are written in letters of flame
  • In the book of eternal life.
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