This poem was first published in Songs in Wiltshire (1909). Although it was credited as a translation (from the Greek) of a poem by Anacreon (c570BC-c475BC), it is more likely that it was at least mostly Alfred's work, perhaps heavily based on an ancient poem.
I hate, my boy, to sort and choose,
As what to praise, or to abuse;
As digging deep a well to find,
To poison or pervert our kind,
Thinking my reason is the best.
That I am idle, name it not,
Mine is the beauty and the blot;
But more is beautiful than base,
And sickness wears a sorry face.
That many are averse, we know,
But 'tis no help to tell them so;
To paint the nature of an ill
Will make its influence wider still;
As tampering with a shifty verse
Tends but to make the poem worse.
'Tis not the poet hath not heard
The bitter cry, the cutting word;
For all, endowed with sense aright,
Have ears for hearing, eyes for sight;
Though sometimes ears should silent be,
And eyes too generous to see.
Go, boy, and tell the world I sought
No pleasure in tumultuous thought,
But chased my bitterness away
With musings of an earlier day;
Wrought while the hour was warm and long,
And matched the seasons with the song.

Poems index

Alphabetical list of poems online