Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
From “The Earthly Paradise.” I. The Singer’s Prelude
William Morris (1834–96)
OF Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
  I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,        5
Or hope again for aught that I can say,
The idle singer of an empty day.
  But rather, when aweary of your mirth
From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh,
And, feeling kindly unto all the earth,        10
Grudge every minute as it passes by,
Made the more mindful that the sweet days die.—
Remember me a little then, I pray,
The idle singer of an empty day.
  The heavy trouble, the bewildering care        15
That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,
These idle verses have no power to bear;
So let me sing of names remembered,
Because they, living not, can ne’er be dead,
Or long time take their memory quite away        20
From us poor singers of an empty day.
  Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,        25
Telling a tale not too importunate
To those who in the sleepy region stay,
Lull’d by the singer of an empty day.
  Folk say, a wizard to a northern king
At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,        30
That through one window men beheld the spring,
And through another saw the summer glow,
And through a third the fruited vines a-row,
While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,
Pip’d the drear wind of that December day.        35
  So with this Earthly Paradise it is,
If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
Where toss’d about all hearts of men must be;        40
Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
Not the poor singer of an empty day.


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