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Poem by Edmund William Gosse

Greece and England

Would this sunshine be completer,
Or these violets smell sweeter,
Or the birds sing more in metre,
⁠     If it all were years ago,
⁠     When the melted mountain-snow
⁠     Heard in Enna all the woe
Of the poor forlorn Demeter?

Would a stronger life pulse o'er us
If a panther-chariot bore us,
If we saw, enthroned before us,
     ⁠Ride the leopard-footed god,
⁠     With a fir-cone tip the rod,
⁠     Whirl the thyrsus round, and nod
To a drunken Maenad-chorus?

Bloomed there richer, redder roses
Where the Lesbian earth incloses
All of Sappho? where reposes
     ⁠Meleager, laid to sleep
     ⁠By the olive-girdled deep;
     ⁠Where the Syrian maidens weep,
Bringing serpolet in posies?

Ah! it may be! Greece had leisure
For a world of faded pleasure;
We must tread a tamer measure,
⁠     To a milder, homelier lyre;
⁠     We must tend a paler fire,
⁠     Lay less perfume on the pyre,
Be content with poorer treasure!

Were the brown-limbed lovers bolder?
Venus younger, Cupid older?
Down the wood-nymph's warm white shoulder
⁠     Trailed a purpler, madder vine?
⁠     Were the poets more divine?
     ⁠Brew we no such golden wine
Here, where summer suns are colder?

Yet for us too life has flowers,
Time a glass of joyous hours,
Interchange of sun and showers,
⁠     And a wealth of leafy glades,
⁠     Meant for loving men and maids,
⁠     Full of warm green lights and shades,
Trellis-work of wild-wood bowers.

So while English suns are keeping
Count of sowing-time and reaping,
We've no need to waste our weeping,
⁠     Though the glad Greeks lounged at ease
     ⁠Underneath their olive-trees,
     ⁠And the Sophoclean bees
Swarmed on lips of poets sleeping!

Edmund William Gosse

Edmund William Gosse's other poems:
  1. At the Play
  2. The Mænad's Grave
  3. Alere Flammam
  4. To a Child
  5. The Bath

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