Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921)
On the Future of Poetry
1Bards of the Future! you that come
2With striding march, and roll of drum,
3What will your newest challenge be
4To our prose-bound community?
5What magic will you find to stir
6The limp and languid listener?
7Will it be daring and dramatic?
8Will it be frankly democratic?
9Will Pegasus return again
10In guise of modern aeroplane,
11Descending from a cloudless blue
12To drop on us a bomb or two?
13I know not. Far be it from me
14To darken dark futurity;
15Still less to render more perplexed
16The last vagary, or the next.
17Leave Pindus Hill to those who list,
18Iconoclast or anarchist --
19So be it. "They that break shall pay."
20I stand upon the ancient way.
21I hold it for a certain thing,
22That, blank or rhyming, song must sing;
23And more, that what is good for verse,
24Need not, by dint of rhyme, grow worse.
25I hold that they who deal in rhyme
26Must take the standpoint of the time --
27But not to catch the public ear,
28As mountebank or pulpiteer;
29That the old notes are still the new,
30If the musician's touch be true --
31Nor can the hand that knows its trade
32Achieve the trite and ready-made;
33That your first theme is Human Life,
34Its hopes and fears, its love and strife --
35A theme no custom can efface,
36Common, but never commonplace;
37For this, beyond all doubt, is plain:
38The Truth that pleased will please again,
39And move men as in bygone years
40When Hector's wife smiled through her tears.
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: Austin Dobson, The Complete Poetical Works (London: Oxford University Press, 1923): 460-61. PR 4606 A1 Robarts Library
First publication date:
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/28
Other poems by Henry Austin Dobson