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Short poem

John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890)

The Useless Ones

              1Poets should not reason:
              2     Let them sing!
              3Argument is treason --
              4     Bells should ring.

              5Statements none, nor questions;
              6     Gnomic words.
              7Spirit-cries, suggestions,
              8     Like the birds.

              9He may use deduction
            10     Who must preach;
            11He may praise instruction
            12     Who must teach;

            13But the poet duly
            14     Fills his part
            15When the song bursts truly
            16     From his heart.

            17For no purpose springing;
            18     For no pelf:
            19He must do the singing
            20     For itself.

            21Not in lines austerely
            22     Let him build;
            23Not the surface merely
            24     Let him gild.

            25Fearless, uninvited,
            26     Like a spring.
            27Opal-words, inlighted,
            28     Let him sing.

            29As the leaf grows sunward
            30     Song must grow;
            31As the stream flows onward
            32     Song must flow.

            33Useless? Ay, -- for measure;
            34     Roses die,
            35But their breath gives pleasure --
            36     God knows why!


6] Gnomic: aphoristic, given to pithy sayings.

18] pelf: money.

33] for measure: for quantifying.

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: James Jeffrey Roche, Life of John Boyle O'Reilly ... Together with his Complete Poems and Speeches, edited by Mrs. John Boyle O'Reilly (New York: Cassell, 1891): 424-25. PS 2493 R6 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1891
Publication date note: "... published in the Pilot of February 1 [1890] .... This poem had been read, in his absence, by his friend Benjamin Kimball, at the dinner of the Papyrus Club, in December [1889]" (Life, p. 343).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/12/11

Composition date: 1889
Rhyme: abab

Other poems by John Boyle O'Reilly