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Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Songs from the Turret. 14. There was a bard all in the olden time

There was a bard all in the olden time,
   When bards were men to whom the world gave ear,
And song an art the great gods deemed sublime,
   Who sought to make his willful lady hear
By weaving strange new melodies of rhyme,
   Which voiced his love, his sorrow, and his fear.

Sweetheart, my soul is heavy now with fear,
   Lest thou shalt frown upon me for all time.
   Ah! would that I had skill to weave a rhyme
Worthy to win the favor of thine ear.
Tho' all the world were deaf, if thou didst hear
   And smile, my song would seem to me sublime.

But ah! too vast, too awful and sublime,
   Is my great passion, born of grief and fear,
   To clothe in verse. Why, if the world could hear
And understand my love, then for all time,
   So long as there was sound or listening ear,
All space would ring and echo with my rhyme.

Such passion seems belittled by a rhyme--
It needs the voice of nature. The sublime,
   Loud thunder crash, that hurts the startled ear,
   And stirs the heart with awe, akin to fear,
The weird, wild winds of equinoctial time;
   These voices tell my love, wouldst thou but hear.

And listening at the flood tides, thou might'st hear
   The love I bear thee surging through the rhyme
   Of breaking billows, many a moon full time.
   Why, I have heard thee call the sea sublime,
When every wave but voiced the anguished fear
Of my man's heart to thy unconscious ear.

Vain, then, the hope that thou wilt lend thine ear
To any song of mine, or deign to hear
My lays of longing or my strains of fear.
   Vain is the hope to weave for thee a rhyme,
   Or sweet or sad, or subtle or sublime,
   Which wins thy gracious favor for all time.

Oh, cruel time! my lady will not hear,
   Though in her ear love sings a song sublime,
And my sad rhyme ends, like my love, in fear. 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox's other poems:
  1. The Birth of the Opal
  2. At Forty-Eight
  3. Artist and Man
  4. As by Fire
  5. But a Dream

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