Saturday, June 01, 2013


We'd Rather Be Alive Than Not

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), "Ballade of the Optimist," New Collected Rhymes (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 190), pp. 64-65 (line numbers added):
Heed not the folk who sing or say
  In sonnet sad or sermon chill,
"Alas, alack, and well-a-day,
  This round world's but a bitter pill."
Poor porcupines of fretful quill!        5
  Sometimes we quarrel with our lot:
We, too, are sad and careful; still
  We'd rather be alive than not.

What though we wish the cats at play
  Would some one else's garden till;        10
Though Sophonisba drop the tray
  And all our worshipped Worcester spill,
Though neighbours "practise" loud and shrill,
  Though May be cold and June be hot,
Though April freeze and August grill,        15
  We'd rather be alive than not.

And, sometimes on a summer's day
  To self and every mortal ill
We give the slip, we steal away,
  To walk beside some sedgy rill:        20
The darkening years, the cares that kill,
A little while are well forgot;
  When deep in broom upon the hill,
We'd rather be alive than not.

Pistol, with oaths didst thou fulfil        25
  The task thy braggart tongue begot,
We eat our leek with better will,
  We'd rather be alive than not.
12 our worshipped Worcester spill: smash our fine china
25-27 Fluellen forces Pistol to eat a leek in Shakespeare, Henry V, Act V, Scene 1.

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