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(31 March 1844 - 20 July 1912 / Selkirk, Scotland)

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A Portrait Of 1783

Your hair and chin are like the hair
And chin Burne-Jones's ladies wear;
You were unfashionably fair
In '83;
And sad you were when girls are gay,
You read a book about Le vrai
Merite de l'homme, alone in May.
What CAN it be,
Le vrai merite de l'homme? Not gold,
Not titles that are bought and sold,
Not wit that flashes and is cold,
But Virtue merely!
Instructed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(And Jean-Jacques, surely, ought to know),
You bade the crowd of foplings go,
You glanced severely,
Dreaming beneath the spreading shade
Of 'that vast hat the Graces made;'
So Rouget sang--while yet he played
With courtly rhyme,
And hymned great Doisi's red perruque,
And Nice's eyes, and Zulme's look,
And dead canaries, ere he shook
The sultry time
With strains like thunder. Loud and low
Methinks I hear the murmur grow,
The tramp of men that come and go
With fire and sword.
They war against the quick and dead,
Their flying feet are dashed with red,
As theirs the vintaging that tread
Before the Lord.
O head unfashionably fair,
What end was thine, for all thy care?
We only see thee dreaming there:
We cannot see
The breaking of thy vision, when
The Rights of Man were lords of men,
When virtue won her own again
In '93.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010


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