Shakespeare

By George Sterling

Weigh you the worth and honor of a king
So great as our dread father in a scale
Of common ounces? Will you with counters sum
The past proportion of his infinite?
            TEOILUS AND CRESSIDA

There burst a mighty morning on the world,
After a night so long it seemed an age.
An age it was. Then, romping in the sun,
Came youthful giants down the Singing Way,
And one, the tallest, leapt aside and set
A magic trumpet to his lips, and blew,
And we who listen hear the clarion yet.

Then, at the sweet compulsion of that sound,
The land was thronged with visions. Years that were
Gave back their paladins and queens who wept.
Kings cried to kings, extending shadowy swords
O'er phantom armies. Heroes, councilors,
Mingled with drabs and ruffians, as the Past
A gleaming pageant, swirled in rainbow-mist
Before the Present, soon to be the same.
What an array was there! What shifting forms,
Children of genius and a little ink!

The Trumpeter is dust, but they remain
Part of mankind forever. As the sun
He touched all things with equal ray, and set.
Like one sent as a spy from other worlds,
To tell our best and worst, he came. Judge you
How well he saw, who seems a Titan boy
Pelting the world with jewels and with filth,
Or as a seraph wandering in the stews,
And half at home there. This was he so swift
To flatter kings, then jeer the sceptred blood
With its mortality. And this was he
Who loved the common man enough, perhaps,
But failed not to remind him of his stink.
He knew the human heart as misers know
Their gold, and told its currents for all Time—
The unswerving tides of Nature and her plan.
He was an empire, with its plains and peaks.
He was an ocean, and the sky above.

Some are who say: "He was content to carve
His marbles from the quarry of the Past,
Nor told us of his time nor times to be,
Concerned to please the rabble and the court—
For all his wisdom missing, as we know
The fiery vision of democracy."
But this our King of Song was never come
To set the wandering thunders of the world
To music and to meaning. Not for him
The tribune's sword, the fasces of reform:
Leave those to men with hands—our god had wings.
Nor think him lapped in self, who all his days
Flouted the harlot Fame. His faults were there,
But at their worst as spots upon the sun.
Full of small errors and large excellence.
Be proud, O men! that you arc of his blood,
Who well might be this earth's ambassador
To haughty worlds and stars of whitest fire.

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