Once a poet, long ago,
Wrote a song as void of art
As the songs that children know,
And as pure as a child’s heart.
With a sigh he threw it down,
Saying, “This will never shed
Any glory or renown
On my name when I am dead.
“I will sing a lordly song
Men shall hear, when I am gone,
Through the years sound clear and strong
As a golden clarion.”
So this lordly song he sang
That would gain him deathless fame,
When the death-knell o’er him rang
No man even knew its name.
Ay, and when his way he found
To the place of singing souls,
And beheld their bright heads crowned
With song-woven aureoles,
He stood shame-faced in the throng,
For his brow of wreath was bare,
And, alas! his lordly song
Sere had grown in that sweet air;
Then, all sudden, a divine
Light fell on him from afar,
And he felt the child-song shine
On his forehead like a star.
So for ever. Each and all
Songs of passion or of mirth
That are not heart-pure shall fall
As a sky-lark’s, to the earth;
But the soul’s song has no bounds,
Like the voice of Israfel,
From the heaven of heavens it sounds
To the very hell of hell.