A Reply

To Ralph Hodgson

You have sent your verse to me

And a poet must reply

To the gracious courtesy

With whatever tune is nigh,

With whatever little air

Can be plucked from anywhere.

Verse has fled from me so long,

I have quite forgot to sing;

I who had a hoard of song

Now can scarce find anything

Worth the singing, though I grope

Less with fingers than with hope.

Singing at your highest tone:

How shall I return the rhyme,

Whom the gods have left alone

Such a very lengthy time?

So I veer and break and yaw

On my little pipe of straw.


Lift up my heart, and sing again

As once you did when I was young,

Before I knew of woe and pain,

When every happy bird that sung

I sang to it, and it to me

Repeated half the melody.

Like a thrush at peep of light,

I would pipe my sunny lay,

Singing how the blackest night

Always has to run away

When the sun climbs from afar

Brandishing his scimitar.

Like an eagle's is your cry;

More of fierceness than of glee,

Sent your pinions to the sky

Bounding our humanity;

Sent you winging to the sun

That is seen of every one.


You have climbed a hill, and I

Climbed it too; we saw the sun

Toiling up his hill of sky,

Shouting to the night to run

And hide itself before he came

With his scimitar of flame.

With his scimitar of heat,

With his diadem of fire,

Lightning singing at his feet,

Thunder chanting in the choir,

Twice ten thousand leagues of wind

Shouting victory behind.

You and I know well the hill,

We have climbed it up and down,

Knowing what there is of ill,

Knowing what it is to frown,

Lest the bitter word should be

On the lips of ecstasy.


Still lift up my heart and sing

Once again, as once you knew,

That the end of everything

Is to build it up anew.

Are you sad, my heart? then keep

Singing, singing, lest you weep.

For whoever climbs that hill

They shall feed on bitterness,

Wearying along until,

At the very top of stress,

They shall eat their hearts and know

Joy is kernel of their woe.

They shall breathe a sweeter air,

They shall see with other eyes

What they are and what they were,

And the strange and sad disguise

Of humanity will slip

From the shoulder and the lip.


Them the sun shall greet and call,

" Hail, and hail, and hail again,

Elder brothers of us all,

Who descended into pain;

Welcome to the thrones that ye

Sat in through eternity.

" Who descended to the heart,

Who descended to the hell,

Gathering every poisoned dart

Of pain and sorrow, hiding well

In their bosoms all they knew

Of the sin a god can do. "

They shall climb the hell again,

They shall scale the heart anew,

Treading back without a stain

Through the sunlight and the dew,

From the rigour of the clay

To the thrones of yesterday.

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