Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern British Poetry
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Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern British Poetry.  1920.
 
John Masefield. 1878–
 
100. The Choice
 
THE Kings go by with jewelled crowns; 
Their horses gleam, their banners shake, their spears are many. 
The sack of many-peopled towns 
Is all their dream: 
The way they take         5
Leaves but a ruin in the brake, 
And, in the furrow that the ploughmen make, 
A stampless penny; a tale, a dream. 
  
The Merchants reckon up their gold, 
Their letters come, their ships arrive, their freights are glories:  10
The profits of their treasures sold 
They tell and sum; 
Their foremen drive 
Their servants, starved to half-alive, 
Whose labours do but make the earth a hive  15
Of stinking glories; a tale, a dream. 
  
The Priests are singing in their stalls, 
Their singing lifts, their incense burns, their praying clamours; 
Yet God is as the sparrow falls, 
The ivy drifts;  20
The votive urns 
Are all left void when Fortune turns, 
The god is but a marble for the kerns 
To break with hammers; a tale, a dream. 
  
O Beauty, let me know again  25
The green earth cold, the April rain, the quiet waters figuring sky, 
The one star risen. 
So shall I pass into the feast 
Not touched by King, Merchant, or Priest; 
Know the red spirit of the beast,  30
Be the green grain; 
Escape from prison. 
 
 
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