Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Men of Old
By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
I KNOW not that the men of old
  Were better than men now,
Of heart more kind, of hand more bold,
  Of more ingenuous brow:
I heed not those who pine for force        5
  A ghost of Time to raise,
As if they thus could check the course
  Of these appointed days.
Still it is true, and over true,
  That I delight to close        10
This book of life self-wise and new,
  And let my thoughts repose
On all that humble happiness
  The world has since forgone,
The daylight of contentedness        15
  That on those faces shone.
With rights, tho’ not too closely scann’d,
  Enjoy’d as far as known;
With will by no reverse unmann’d,
  With pulse of even tone,        20
They from to-day and from to-night
  Expected nothing more
Than yesterday and yesternight
  Had proffer’d them before.
To them was Life a simple art        25
  Of duties to be done,
A game where each man took his part,
  A race where all must run;
A battle whose great scheme and scope
  They little cared to know,        30
Content as men-at-arms to cope
  Each with his fronting foe.
Man now his Virtue’s diadem
  Puts on and proudly wears:
Great thoughts, great feelings came to them        35
  Like instincts, unawares.
Blending their souls’ sublimest needs
  With tasks of every day,
They went about their gravest deeds
  As noble boys at play.        40

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