Monday, December 8, 2008

Arthur O' Shaughnessy-Ode

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Ninevah with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur O' Shaugnessy is known for a single famous poem and that one is never quoted in the form in which it was written. The "singer of one song" was born in London in 1844 and died at the young age of 37 in 1881 of influenza. The anthropologist F.T. Palgrave deserves a bit of credit for cutting down an over-written poem of nine stanzas to an almost perfect three. It is Palgrave's condensed version that is most quoted, one of the most evocative poems about poetry ever written.

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