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Charles Mackay (Чарльз Маккей)


Old Opinions


Once we thought that Power Eternal
   Had decreed the woes of man;
That the human heart was wicked
   Since its pulses first began;
That the earth was but a prison,
   Dark and joyless at the best,
And that men were born for evil,
   And imbibed it from the breast;
That 'twas vain to think of urging
   Any earthly progress on.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!

Once we thought all human sorrows
   Were predestined to endure;
That, as man had never made them,
   Men were impotent to cure;
That the few were born superior,
   Though the many might rebel; —
Those to sit at Nature's table,
   These to pick the crumbs that fell;
Those to live upon the fatness,
   These the starvlings, lank and wan.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!

Once we thought that Kings were holy,
   Doing wrong by right divine;
That the Church was Lord of Conscience,
   Despot over Mine and Thine:
That whatever priests commanded,
   No one could reject and live;
And that all who differ'd from them
   It was error to forgive, —
Right to send to stake or halter
   With eternal malison.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!

Once we thought that holy Freedom
   Was a curs'd and tainted thing;
Foe of Peace and Law and Virtue;
   Foe of Magistrate and King;
That all vile degraded passion
   Ever follow'd in her path;
Lust and Plunder, War and Rapine,
   Tears, and Anarchy, and Wrath;
That the angel was a cruel,
   Haughty, blood-stain'd Amazon.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!

Once we thought it right to foster
   Local jealousies and pride;
Right to hate another nation
   Parted from us by a tide;
Right to go to war for glory,
   Or extension of domain;
Right, through fear of foreign rivals,
   To refuse the needful grain;
Right to bar it out till Famine
   Drew the bolt with fingers wan.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!

Once we thought that Education
   Was a luxury for the few;
That to give it to the many
   Was to give it scope undue;
That 'twas foolish to imagine
   It could be as free as air,
Common as the glorious sunshine
   To the child of want and care;
That the poor man, educated,
   Quarrel'd with his toil anon.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!

Old opinions, rags and tatters;
   Ye are worn; — ah, quite threadbare!
We must cast you off for ever; —
   We are wiser than we were:
Never fitting, always cramping,
   Letting in the wind and sleet,
Chilling us with rheums and agues,
   Or inflaming us with heat.
We have found a mental raiment
   Purer, whiter to put on.
Old opinions! rags and tatters!
   Get you gone! get you gone!



Charles Mackay's other poems:
  1. The Out-Comer and the In-Goer
  2. Lorenzo Pines in Dungeon Gloom
  3. Street Companions
  4. The Drop of Ambrosia
  5. The Poor Man's Sunday Walk


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