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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,

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,

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,

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,

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

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?”

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

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,

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.