Let lean Ambition seek its goal; fat Wealth its hoard increase,
Sour Vanity achieve its gauds, and social triumphs please
Dyspeptic dames and feline fops; — beneath the aching sky
The living hosts, all graveward bound, with groan and laugh go by.
I do not enter for the prize. The gold for which men stint,
Cheat, lie and perjure, rob and kill, fresh sovereigned from the Mint,
Is not more precious in itself, more perfect in the scale
Supreme of earthly loveliness than any simple, frail,
Sweet, yellow buttercup that lifts for any ploughman’s eye,
Its burnished coin of floral gold from Earth’s unerring die.
Nor doth the stamped, white silver seem a fairer thing to me
Than scales upon the salmon’s side or moonlight on the sea.
Write not my name upon the lists! Will any glory save —
Though I grow great as Buonaparte — my body from the grave?
For where is Artaxerxes now? He shareth with the hound
That licked his royal feet in fear, a common couch of ground.
The flesh of fossil beasts and birds; the mouse and mastodon,
The flesh that quivered under-claw in primal forests gone;
The hearts that gloried with the gods, or cowered ’mid the swine,
A heritage of sure decay at birth received — like mine.
Let others to the Strident Way! The proud inventor feeds
With each discordant, new machine but new-created needs;
Each fresh philosophy in turn the last entire disproves,
And further from the searcher’s grasp Life’s hidden truth removes.
All such is waste and emptiness. My son, but small per cent.
Of what men strive and sicken for repays the effort spent.
This spiral whorl that man calls “Life,” this hurry that we boast
As “Modern Progress” in our pride, is tinsel at the most.
I will not caper in the dance; too well the tune I know;
’Twas old when Nineveh was young; amid pre-glacial snow
They played it on the boulevards; millennia ago
When Paris yet a village was of hungry Eskimo.
I will not stumble in the race, with ever-failing feet,
When conquest ends in slavery, and triumph spells defeat.
My house is on the hilltops reared; the paths that glamor me
Lie out across the level land and by the level sea.
As Esau have I sold my place; but yet, a millionaire,
I draw entail my heritage of life and love and air;
Red health at riot in the veins, the flesh-pot on the fire,
Full larder and a covering — what more shall man desire?
Green Nature’s coffers, spilling wealth, red draperies of Morn
That richen o’er the east when Day, another prince, is born;
The noontide shadows falling cool through forests darkly fair,
The star tiaras that the Night sets in her raven hair,
These dower rich my pleasured eyes; and in my ears the strong,
Majestic music of the winds that dog white flocks along
Blue parks celestial, till the rain, their shepherd grey and old,
In spreading mantle comes again, to gather them in fold;
The arias of running streams, the thunder’s Marseillaise,
The aves and the glorias a vagrant night breeze plays
On choric harps of forest oak; wild marches of the seas,
And insects droll and singing birds — these make my melodies.
The Garden of my Choice distils rare scents from flowers unseen,
Though never meddling gard’ner delved among its arbors green;
And, save by fickle winds, unswept, its shaded walks and ways
Still bloom in constant fruitfulness, unsown thro’ winter days.
The Temple of my Worship knows nor heresies nor creeds,
No pontiff walks its lofty aisles; no kneeling prelate reads
His liturgies of human wants; but all its shrines untrod
Are loud with adoration, and the Nearer Voice of God.
So would I that my days shall pass: and if this hand record,
From all the Beauties of the World, but one eternal word:
I know my days will not be vain; nor shall I weigh the cost
Of earthly riches unattained or human glories lost.
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 124-127
Artaxerxes = the name of several Kings of Persia (Artaxerxes I to Artaxerxes V)
ave = a reference to Ave Maria: (Latin) “Hail Mary”; “Ave Maria” is a well-known Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary, which begins with the line “Hail Mary, full of grace”; “Ave Maria” is also a famous song by the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828), as part of his Opus 52 (1825), which he based upon the well-known epic poem “The Lady of the Lake” (1810) by the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Buonaparte = an alternative spelling of “Bonaparte”, the surname of two emperors of France: Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821, emperor 1804-1814, 1815) and Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, 1808-1873, emperor 1852-1870, a nephew of Napoleon I) (note: Napoleon II, i.e. Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, 1811-1832, son of Napoleon I, did not become a ruler of France, as when Napoleon I abdicated in 1814, he did so on behalf of himself and his son)
gard’ner = (vernacular) gardener
doth = (archaic) does
morn = morning
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
shareth = (archaic) shares
thro’ = (vernacular) through
’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”