“The Things that Are More Excellent”
(1892) by William Watson
As we wax older on this earth, Till many a toy that charmed us seems Emptied of beauty, stripped of worth, And mean as dust and dead as dreams,— For gauds that perished, shows that passed, Some recompense the Fates have sent: Thrice lovelier shine the things that last, The things that are more excellent. Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl, An hour with silence we prefer, Where statelier rise the woods than all Yon towers of talk at Westminster. Let this man prate and that man plot, On fame or place or title bent: The votes of veering crowds are not The things that are more excellent. Shall we perturb and vex our soul For “wrongs” which no true freedom mar, Which no man’s upright walk control, And from no guiltless deed debar? What odds though tonguesters heal, or leave Unhealed, the grievance they invent? To things, not phantoms, let us cleave— The things that are more excellent. Nought nobler is, than to be free: The stars of heaven are free because In amplitude of liberty Their joy is to obey the laws. From servitude to freedom’s name Free thou thy mind in bondage pent; Depose the fetich, and proclaim The things that are more excellent. And in appropriate dust be hurled That dull, punctilious god, whom they That call their tiny clan the world, Serve and obsequiously obey: Who con their ritual of Routine, With minds to one dead likeness blent, And never ev’n in dreams have seen The things that are more excellent. To dress, to call, to dine, to break No canon of the social code, The little laws that lacqueys make, The futile decalogue of Mode,— How many a soul for these things lives, With pious passion, grave intent! While Nature careless-handed gives The things that are more excellent. To hug the wealth ye cannot use, And lack the riches all may gain,— O blind and wanting wit to choose, Who house the chaff and burn the grain! And still doth life with starry towers Lure to the bright, divine ascent!— Be yours the things ye would: be ours The things that are more excellent. The grace of friendship—mind and heart Linked with their fellow heart and mind; The gains of science, gifts of art; The sense of oneness with our kind; The thirst to know and understand— A large and liberal discontent: These are the goods in life’s rich hand, The things that are more excellent. In faultless rhythm the ocean rolls, A rapturous silence thrills the skies; And on this earth are lovely souls, That softly look with aidful eyes. Though dark, O God, Thy course and track, I think Thou must at least have meant That nought which lives should wholly lack The things that are more excellent.