Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Tales of a Wayside Inn
Part Third.
Interlude
 
TOUCHED by the pathos of these rhymes,
The Theologian said: “All praise
Be to the ballads of old times
And to the bards of simple ways,
Who walked with Nature hand in hand,        5
Whose country was their Holy Land,
Whose singing robes were homespun brown
From looms of their own native town,
Which they were not ashamed to wear,
And not of silk or sendal gay,        10
Nor decked with fanciful array
Of cockle-shells from Outre-Mer.”
 
To whom the Student answered; “Yes;
All praise and honor! I confess
That bread and ale, home-baked, home-brewed,        15
Are wholesome and nutritious food,
But not enough for all our needs;
Poets—the best of them—are birds
Of passage; where their instinct leads
They range abroad for thoughts and words,        20
And from all climes bring home the seeds
That germinate in flowers or weeds.
They are not fowls in barnyards born
To cackle o’er a grain of corn;
And, if you shut the horizon down        25
To the small limits of their town,
What do you do but degrade your bard
Till he at last becomes as one
Who thinks the all-encircling sun
Rises and sets in his back yard?”        30
 
The Theologian said again:
“It may be so; yet I maintain
That what is native still is best,
And little care I for the rest.
’T is a long story; time would fail        35
To tell it, and the hour is late;
We will not waste it in debate,
But listen to our Landlord’s tale.”
 
And thus the sword of Damocles
Descending not by slow degrees,        40
But suddenly, on the Landlord fell,
Who blushing, and with much demur
And many vain apologies,
Plucking up heart, began to tell
The Rhyme of one Sir Christopher.        45
 
 
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