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Poem by William Watson

Sketch of a Political Character


  There is a race of men, who master life,
Their victory being inversely as their strife;
Who capture by refraining from pursuit;
Shake not the bough, yet load their hands with fruit;
The earth's high places who attain to fill,
By most indomitably sitting still.
While others, full upon the fortress hurled,
Lay fiery siege to the embattled world,
Of such rude arts their natures feel no need;
Greatly inert, they lazily succeed;
Find in the golden mean their proper bliss,
And doing nothing, never do amiss;
But lapt in men's good graces live, and die
By all regretted, nobody knows why.

  Cast in this fortunate Olympian mould,
The admirable * * * * behold;
Whom naught could dazzle or mislead, unless
'Twere the wild light of fatal cautiousness;
Who never takes a step from his own door
But he looks backward ere he looks before.
When once he starts, it were too much to say
He visibly gets farther on his way:
But all allow, he ponders well his course
For future uses hoarding present force.
The flippant deem him slow and saturnine,
The summed-up phlegm of that illustrious line;
But we, his honest adversaries, who
More highly prize him than his false friends do,
Frankly admire that simple mass and weight
A solid Roman pillar of the State,
So inharmonious with the baser style
Of neighbouring columns grafted on the pile,
So proud and imperturbable and chill,
Chosen and matched so excellently ill,
He seems a monument of pensive grace,
Ah, how pathetically out of place!

  Would that some call he could not choose but heed
Of private passion or of public need
At last might sting to life that slothful power,
And snare him into greatness for an hour!

William Watson

William Watson's other poems:
  1. Art Maxims
  2. World-Strangeness
  3. Under the Dark and Piny Steep
  4. The Blind Summit
  5. To Lord Tennyson

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