The Poet's Lot

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

What is a poet's love? -
To write a girl a sonnet,
To get a ring, or some such thing,
And fustianize upon it.

What is a poet's fame? -
Sad hints about his reason,
And sadder praise from garreteers,
To be returned in season.

Where go the poet's lines? -
Answer, ye evening tapers!
Ye auburn locks, ye golden curls,
Speak from your folded papers!

Child of the ploughshare, smile;
Boy of the counter, grieve not,
Though muses round thy trundle-bed
Their broidered tissue weave not.

The poet's future holds
No civic wreath above him;
Nor slated roof, nor varnished chaise,
Nor wife nor child to love him.

Maid of the village inn,
Who workest woe on satin,
(The grass in black, the graves in green,
The epitaph in Latin,)

Trust not to them who say,
In stanzas, they adore thee;
Oh rather sleep in churchyard clay,
With urn and cherub o'er thee!

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