To John Ruskin
(After reading his 'Modern Painters')
YES, you do well to mock us, you
Who knew our bitter woe —
To jeer the false, deny the true
In us blind-struggling low,
While, on your pleasant place aloft
With flowers and clouds and streams,
At our black sweat and toil you scoffed
That marred your idle dreams.
'Oh, freedom, what was that to us,'
(You'd shout down to us there),
'Except the freedom foul, vicious,
From all of good and fair?
'Obedience, faith, truth, chivalry,
To us were empty names.' —
The like to you (might we reply)
Whose noisy life proclaims
Presumption, want of human love,
Impatience, filthy breath,
The snob in soul who looks above,
Trampling on what's beneath.
When did you strive, in nobler part,
With love and gentleness,
To help one soul, to win one heart
To joy and hope and peace?
Go to, vain Prophet, without faith
In God who maketh new,
With hankerings for this putrid death,
This flesh-feast of the few,
This social structure of red mud,
This edifice of slime,
Whose bricks are bones, whose mortar's blood,
Whose pinnacle is Crime! —
Go to, for we who strain our power
For light and warmth and scope,
For wives', for children's happier hour,
Can teach you faith and hope.
Hark to the shout of those who cleared
The Missionary Ridge!
Look on those dead who never feared
The battle's bloody bridge!
Watch the stern swarm at that last breach
March up that came not thence —
And learn Democracy can teach
Pass through that South at last brought low
Where loyal freemen live,
And learn Democracy knows how
To utterly forgive.
Come then, and take this free-given bread
Of us who've scarce enough;
Hush your proud lips, bow down your head
And worship Human Love!
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