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William Morris (1834-1896)

The Earthly Paradise: Apology


              1Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
              2I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
              3Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
              4Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
              5Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
              6Or hope again for aught that I can say,
              7The idle singer of an empty day.

              8But rather, when aweary of your mirth,
              9From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh,
            10And, feeling kindly unto all the earth,
            11Grudge every minute as it passes by,
            12Made the more mindful that the sweet days die--
            13--Remember me a little then I pray,
            14The idle singer of an empty day.

            15The heavy trouble, the bewildering care
            16That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,
            17These idle verses have no power to bear;
            18So let em sing of names remember{`e}d,
            19Because they, living not, can ne'er be dead,
            20Or long time take their memory quite away
            21From us poor singers of an empty day.

            22Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
            23Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
            24Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
            25Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
            26Telling a tale not too importunate
            27To those who in the sleepy region stay,
            28Lulled by the singer of an empty day.

            29Folk say, a wizard to a northern king
            30At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,
            31That through one window men beheld the spring,
            32And through another saw the summer glow,
            33And through a third the fruited vines a-row,
            34While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,
            35Piped the drear wind of that December day.

            36So with this Earthly Paradise it is,
            37If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
            38Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
            39Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
            40Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
            41Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
            42Not the poor singer of an empty day.

Notes

1] The entire poem consists of twenty-four long narrative poems held together by a framework, after the fashion of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. They are supposed to be told on a remote island where some Norwegian wanderers of the fourteenth century find the descendants of a band of Greeks who had settled there long before. Islanders and strangers meet monthly for a whole year, and tell alternate stories from ancient sources--Greek and Norse. "The Lady of the Land" is one of the June tales from The Earthly Paradise. It is a retelling of the shorter story in the fourth chapter of The Voyage of Sir John Maundeville, a fourteenth-century book of travel and romance.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Morris, The Earthly Paradise; a poem, 6 vols. (London: F. S. Ellis, 1868-70). end M677 E38 1868a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto) v. 1-6.
First publication date: 1868
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.340.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/10

Rhyme: ababbcc


Other poems by William Morris