Tuesday, July 12, 2011


One Brave, Honest Man

Arthur William Ryder (1877-1938), Tolstoi—A Critical Symposium, VI. By the Olympian, from his Original Poems, together with Translations from the Sanskrit (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1939), pp. 15-16:
The man by whom new fire is brought,
  Is never understood;
They praise his most imperfect thought,
  And blame him for the good.

Whatever fits their petty scheme,
  With flowers of praise they strew;
Whatever makes them think, they deem
  Fantastic and untrue.

Yet worse, the littler ones are sure
  To organize his truth—
Some school or church that shall endure
  In everlasting youth.

And thus they always kill at length
  The thing they organize;
The more the body gathers strength,
  The more the spirit dies.

They of the Inquisition prayed
  To him of Galilee!
The Renaissance of learning made
  A University!

None seeking forms, or praise of man,
  Or scholarship, or art,
Or any social glory, can
  Be quite sincere at heart.

This Tolstoi was sincere; his pride
  Of power and brain and birth
And glory, flickered out and died
  In the vision of an earth

Where men should save their souls by pain,
  Should conquer pride and bind it;
The ancient truth he taught again:
  Who loses life, shall find it.

This is his lesson to his race,
  Distort it as they can:
The world becomes a better place
  For one brave, honest man.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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