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Saturday, March 31, 2018

From Poetry: True Wisdom

“An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than for illumination.” – Andrew Lang

Born in Scotland on this date in 1844, Lang was a poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology.  He is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. His Blue Fairy Book (in 1889 and the first of many collections of fairy tales) was a beautifully produced and illustrated edition that has become a classic.           The author of many hundreds of books, short stories and essays, his writings are studied and frequent quoted around the globe.  The annual Andrew Lang Lecture Series at the University of St. Andrews honors his legacy.   For Saturday’s Poem from among Lang’s dozens of “Ballades,” here is,

Ballade of True Wisdom

While others are asking for beauty or fame,
Or praying to know that for which they should pray,
Or courting Queen Venus, that affable dame,
Or chasing the Muses the weary and grey,
The sage has found out a more excellent way -
To Pan and to Pallas his incense he showers,
And his humble petition puts up day by day,
For a house full of books, and a garden of flowers.

Inventors may bow to the God that is lame,
And crave from the fire on his stithy a ray;
Philosophers kneel to the God without name,
Like the people of Athens, agnostics are they;
The hunter a fawn to Diana will slay,
The maiden wild roses will wreathe for the Hours;
But the wise man will ask, ere libation he pay,
For a house full of books, and a garden of flowers.

Oh! grant me a life without pleasure or blame
(As mortals count pleasure who rush through their day
With a speed to which that of the tempest is tame)!
O grant me a house by the beach of a bay,
Where the waves can be surly in winter, and play
With the seaweed in summer, ye bountiful powers!
And I'd leave all the hurry, the noise, and the fray,
For a house full of books, and a garden of flowers.

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