A Vindication [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867).]

A Vindication.

So thou hast traced the glorious thought,
And roved in poet-land;
And, having done so, call’st it naught,
In accents cold and bland.

Stand back, cold man, who darest to scan
The subtle essence of the poet’s heart!
Stand back and listen; hear and mourn,
Or, mourning not, the sacred shrine depart.

Lost time, is it, and waste of words?
Impractical and highflown too?
Men are not as the flowers and birds,
To live must work — words will not do?

Yes, it is even so, ye mad mankind!
Ye came on this earth with your sight impaired,
And choose ye now that, as well as be blind,
Ye w ill leave the songs of Heaven unheard?

A poet! There are men were made
When Heaven’s melodious music burst
Around their Maker, men whose souls were laid
Upon that Bosom which their ransom paid,
Where weakness unto perfect strength is nurst.

And these are poets! They have caught
Those tones, and have unceasing striven
To ring, upon their tremulous thought,
The strains that once they heard in Heaven.

And these are poets! They have hushed
Their very breath beneath the smile
Of the Eternal; and they deem it gushed
That they might earth of some dark woes beguile.

Lost time! And do they lose who dwell
On thoughts that live when Time shall be no more?
And wasted words! Not wasted if their music swell
Till hearts with love are flowing o’er.

And if some work be ours to do,
And if God’s curse in blessing o’er us fell,
May we not time that work to music’s flow,
And, if it glads us, shall it not be well?

But thou canst hear no heavenly strain;
As sweet to thee the tinkling sound of gold,
And sweeter far some paltry gain,
Than thought-inducing thought that roll’d
As if ’twere tempered in the sunset’s gold.

I pity thee. Yet poet-mind alone can read
With pure expression all the poet’s word;
But know you who shall help the poet at his need?
(A Father’s hand binds best when children bleed!)
True bard is truer child of thine, O God.

Again, I pity thee! Be sure, beyond the skies,
Each word is purest-poet-thought,
And thou, if here it irks thine eyes,
How wilt thou bear all language with it fraught?

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 81-83

Editor’s notes:
canst = (archaic) can

highflown = (also spelt as “high-flown”) exalted or lofty; can also be used in a negative sense, regarding something being pretentious or of inflated worth

nurst = (nursed) guided or managed (as distinct from other meanings of “nursed”, such as being looked after or treated carefully, especially regarding sickness)

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