By Vernon Watkins

I find them in the wings of every age
While fools and rhetoricians hold the stage.

They know instinctively that speculation
Will never reach a single true equation.

There is no theory, however strict,
A work of genius cannot contradict.

Who pulls tradition down and sets up fashion?
Pretence is one thing, and another, passion.

In every smith whose work I come across
Tradition is the ore, fashion the dross.

They who skim ice cannot afford to stumble;

If pausing they went through, they might grow humble.

Pretenders mock the dead to make their mark,
As little children shout who fear the dark.

‘His work is new. Why, then, his name encumber
With ancient poets?’ He is of their number.

Complain against the dead, but do not sue.
They never read you, much less injured you.

Must it be anarchy to love that nation
Which counts among its assets inspiration?


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