Maurice Thompson

To A Realist

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A crossbow old, with lathe and gaffle grim,
And carven stock, hung in a castle hall--
Mere bricabrac, but on the distance dim
It sketched De Jourdan's quarrel, Richard's fall.


A curious ballad written by Villon
(The sweet old thief)--the page was wan and sere;
But genius had set a glow thereon
Like memory's flush on snows that fell last year.


A broken plow beside a hedgerow flung
Amid the flowering weeds of early June,
Told of poor Burns, who from the furrow sung
The "Banks of Ayr" and "Braes o' Bonnie Doon."


A fossil skeleton, delicate and rare,
A bird (held fast in rock for ages long)
Freed by the quarrymen. I heard the air
Eons ago thrill to its morning song!


A southern zittern found at Avignon;
Broken its keys with pearls and opals set;
Its strings were rust, its wreath√ęd sound-board gone,
But chords of passion wrung it fret by fret.


A leathern bottle, wrinkled, black and old,
And dry as dust of Eden's apple bloom--
Ah, but the philter that it used to hold
Haunted it with the ghost of strange perfume.


A phrase by Sappho, or a violin
Made at Cremona--all the bits of clay
That Palissy burned deathless color in--
The crudest charcoal sketches of Millet,--


How rich in charm, how redolent and ripe
And fertile is the purple mood they bring!
The heroes fight again, Pan blows his pipe,
And from the sacred groves the Muses sing.


Time spares the germs that subtle genius needs;
Forth from the blue of distance they are sent;
And poor indeed is he who never heeds
What precious hints fall from the firmament.


Aloft, arear, in caverns dark, profound,
Where no dull commonplace has ever been,
The golden web of genius is wound,
Which all the thronging world is tangled in.


Genius, that wind-worn reed, unsightly, rude,
Notched by some strong, untutored artisan;
That golden lyre, that lute of jeweled wood,
That syrinx blown by furry lips of Pan!


Ah, friend, as you read Keats one starry night,
While on the world lay dreams and mystery,
You felt a thrill, trembled, and cried outright:
"Young god! Strange boy! Let go the heart of me!"

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Maurice Thompson