Poems (1898)/Friends to Virtue
FRIENDS TO VIRTUE
"The gods whom we all belong to are the gods we belong to whether we will or no."
Into the theatre they came—
"Motley 's the only wear!"
Children of poverty, of shame,
Of folly, of despair.
Elbowing rudely, Jill and Jack,
A nearer view to win,
Youths, men, and women, white and black,
Pell-mell, they jostled in.
A wretched place of poor resort,
Far from the world polite,
Few pennies bought the meagre sport
So fruitful of delight,
And gazing there, each brutish face,
The godlike stamp resigned,
A tablet seemed whereon disgrace
Had written thoughts unkind.
"And what," I mused, "will now be fed
To cater to their mood
Who, as their looks bespeak, have said,—
'Evil, be thou my good'?
"Order will surely be reversed,
Judgment will disappear,
The tricks of knaves will be rehearsed
To catch the plaudits here!"
Yet as I watched the varied throng,
My theories took flight,
For, lo, they still condemned the wrong,
They still approved the right!
The "villain" by his better art
Surprised from them no praise;
They frankly took the hero's part,
Awarding him the bays;
For they, unlike the wise of earth,
Slight tribute paid to skill,—
Anhungered for a higher worth,
Lovers of virtue still!