Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ORGAN-BOY, by LEWIS MORRIS (1833-1907)



Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

Rhyming Dictionary Search
THE ORGAN-BOY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Great brown eyes
Last Line: Yes, my child, that I will.
Subject(s): Boys; Organ-grinders; Hurdy-gurdy Men


GREAT brown eyes,
Thick plumes of hair,
Old corduroys
The worse for wear;
A buttoned jacket,
And peeping out
An ape's grave poll,
Or a guinea pig's snout;
A sun-kissed face,
And a dimpled mouth,
With the white flashing teeth
And soft smile of the south;
A young back bent,
Not with age or care,
But the load of poor music
'Tis fated to bear:
But a commonplace picture
To commonplace eyes,
Yet full of a charm
Which the thinker will prize.
They were stern cold rulers,
Those Romans of old,
Scorning letters and art
For conquest and gold;
Yet leavening mankind,
In mind and in tongue,
With the laws that they made
And the songs that they sung:
Sitting rose-crowned,
With pleasure-choked breath,
As the nude young limbs crimsoned,
Then stiffened in death;
Piling up monuments
Greater than praise,
Thoughts and deeds that shall live
To the latest of days:
Adding province to province,
And sea to sea,
Till the idol fell down
And the world rose up free.

And this is the outcome,
This vagabond child
With that statue-like face
And eyes soft and mild,
This creature so humble,
So gay, yet so meek,
Whose sole strength is only
The strength of the weak;
Of those long cruel ages
Of lust and of guile,
Naught left us to-day
But an innocent smile.
For the laboured appeal
Of the orator's art,
A few childish accents
That reach to the heart.
For those stern legions speeding
O'er sea and o'er land,
But a pitiful glance
And a suppliant hand.
I could moralize still;
But the organ begins,
And the tired ape swings downward
And capers and grins:

And away flies romance.
And yet, time after time,
As I dream of days spent
In a sunnier clime,
Of blue lakes set deep
In the olive-clad mountains,
Of gleaming white palaces
Girt with cool fountains,
Of minsters where every
Carved stone is a treasure,
Of sweet music hovering
'Twixt pain and 'twixt pleasure;
Of chambers enriched,
On all sides, overhead,
With the deathless creations
Of hands that are dead;
Of still cloisters holy,
And twilight arcade,
Where the lovers still saunter
Thro' chequers of shade;
Of tomb and of temple,
Arena and column,
'Mid to-day's garish splendours,
Sombre and solemn;
Of the marvellous town
With the salt-flowing street,
Where colour is richest,
And music most sweet;
Of her the great mother,
Who centuries sate
'Neath a black shadow blotting
The days she was great;
Bound so fast, brought so low --
She, our source and our home --
That only a phantom
Was left us of Rome!
She who, seeming to sleep
Thro' all ages to be,
Was the priests', is mankind's,
Was a slave, and is free!
I turn with grave thought
To this child of the ages,
And to all that is writ
In Time's hidden pages.
Shall young Howards or Guelphs,
In the days that shall come,
Wander forth seeking bread
Far from England and home?

Shall they sail to new continents,
English no more,
Or turn -- strange reverse --
To the old classic shore?
Shall fair locks and blue eyes,
And the rose on the cheek,
Find a language of pity
The tongue cannot speak --
"Not English, but angels"?
Shall this tale be told
Of Romans to be
As of Romans of old?
Shall they too have monkeys
And music? Will any
Try their luck with an engine
Or toy spinning-jenny?

Shall we too be led
By that mirage of Art
Which saps the true strength
Of the national heart?
The sensuous glamour,
The dreamland of grace,
Which rot the strong manhood
They fail to replace;
Which at once are the glory,
The ruin, the shame,
Of the beautiful lands
And ripe souls whence they came?

Oh, my Britain! oh, Mother
Of Freemen! oh, sweet,
Sad toiler majestic,
With labour-worn feet!
Brave worker, girt round,
Inexpugnable, free,
With tumultuous sound
And salt spume of the sea,
Fenced off from the clamour
Of alien mankind
By the surf on the rock,
And the shriek of the wind,
Tho' the hot Gaul shall envy,
The cold German flout thee,
Thy far children scorn thee,
Still thou shalt be great!
Still march on uncaring,
Thy perils unsharing,
Alone, and yet daring
Thy infinite fate!
Yet ever remembering
The precepts of gold,
That were written in part
For the great ones of old --
"Let other hands fashion
The marvels of art;
To thee fate has given
A loftier part.
To rule the wide peoples;
To bind them to thee"
By the sole bond of loving,
That bindeth the free.
To hold thy own place,
Neither lawless nor slave;
Not driven by the despot,
Nor tricked by the knave!

But these thoughts are too solemn,
So play, my child, play,
Never heeding the connoisseur
Over the way,
The last dances of course;
Then, with scant pause between,
"Home, Sweet Home," the "Old Hundredth,"
And "God Save the Queen."
See the poor children swarm
From dark court and dull street,
As the gay music quickens
The lightsome young feet.
See them now whirl away,
Now insidiously come,
With a coy grace which conquers
The squalor of home.
See the pallid cheeks flushing
With innocent pleasure
At the hurry and haste
Of the quick-footed measure.
See the dull eyes now bright,
And now happily dim,
For some soft-dying cadence
Of love-song or hymn.
Dear souls, little joy
Of their young lives have they,
So thro' hymn-tune and song-tune
Play on, my child, play.

For tho' dull pedants chatter
Of musical taste,
Talk of hindered researches,
And hours run to waste;
Tho' they tell us of thoughts
To ennoble mankind
Which your poor measures chase
From the labouring mind;
While your music rejoices
One joyless young heart,
Perish bookworms and books,
Perish learning and art --
Of my vagabond fancies
I'll e'en take my fill.
"Qualche cosa, signor?"
Yes, my child, that I will.





Other Poems of Interest...



Home: PoetryExplorer.net