Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WISDOM UNAPPLIED, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

WISDOM UNAPPLIED, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If I were thou, o butterfly
Last Line: Are wise (for all thy scorn) as thou.'
Subject(s): Butterflies; Wisdom; Advice


IF I were thou, O butterfly,
And poised my purple wing to spy
The sweetest flowers that live and die,


I would not waste my strength on those,
As thou, -- for summer has a close,
And pansies bloom not in the snows.


If I were thou, O working bee,
And all that honey-gold I see
Could delve from roses easily,


I would not hive it at man's door,
As thou, -- that heirdom of my store
Should make him rich and leave me poor.


If I were thou, O eagle proud,
And screamed the thunder back aloud,
And faced the lightning from the cloud,


I would not build my eyrie-throne,
As thou, -- upon a crumbling stone
Which the next storm may trample down.


If I were thou, O gallant steed,
With pawing hoof and dancing head,
And eye outrunning thine own speed,


I would not meeken to the rein,
As thou, -- nor smooth my nostril plain
From the glad desert's snort and strain.


If I were thou, red-breasted bird,
With song at shut-up window heard,
Like Love's sweet Yes too long deferred,


I would not overstay delight,
As thou, -- but take a swallow-flight
Till the new spring returned to sight.


While yet I spake, a touch was laid
Upon my brow, whose pride did fade
As thus, methought, an angel said, --


'If I were thou who sing'st this song,
Most wise for others, and most strong
In seeing right while doing wrong,


'I would not waste my cares, and choose,
As thou, -- to seek what thou must lose,
Such gains as perish in the use.


'I would not work where none can win,
As thou, -- halfway 'twixt grief and sin,
But look above and judge within.


'I would not let my pulse beat high,
As thou, -- towards fame's regality,
Nor yet in love's great jeopardy.


'I would not champ the hard cold bit,
As thou, -- of what the world thinks fit,
But take God's freedom, using it.


'I would not play earth's winter out,
As thou, -- but gird my soul about,
And live for life past death and doubt.


'Then sing, O singer! -- but allow,
Beast, fly and bird, called foolish now,
Are wise (for all thy scorn) as thou.'

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