A Poet’s Eightieth Birthday

Alfred Austin 1835 (Leeds) – 1913 (Ashford)

``He dieth young whom the Gods love,'' was said
By Greek Menander; nor alone by One
Who gave to Greece his English song and sword
Re-echoed is the saying, but likewise he
``Who uttered nothing base,'' and from whose brow,
By right divine, the laurel lapsed to yours,-
Great sire, great successor,-in verse confirmed
The avowal of ``the Morning-Star of Song,''
Happiest is he that dieth in his flower.
Yet can it be that it is gain, not loss,
To quit the pageant of this life before
The heart hath learnt its meaning; leave half-seen,
Half-seen, half-felt, and not yet understood,
The beauty and the bounty of the world;
The fertile waywardness of wanton Spring,
Summer's deep calm, the modulated joy
Of Autumn conscious of a task fulfilled,
And home-abiding Winter's pregnant sleep,
The secret of the seasons? Gain, to leave
The depths of love unfathomed, its heights unscaled,
Rapture and woe unreconciled, and pain
Unprized, unapprehended? This is loss,
Loss and not gain, sheer forfeiture of good,
Is banishment from Eden, though its fruit
Remains untasted.

Interpret then the oracle, ``He dies young
Whom the Gods love,'' for Song infallible
Hath so pronounced! . . . Thus I interpret it:
The favourites of the Gods die young, for they,
They grow not old with grief and deadening time,
But still keep April moisture in their heart
May's music in their ears. Their voice revives,
Revives, rejuvenates, the wintry world,
Flushes the veins of gnarled and knotted age,
And crowns the majesty of life with leaves
As green as are the sapling's.

Thrice happy Poet! to have thus renewed
Your youth with wisdom,-who, though life still seems
To your fresh gaze as frolic and as fair
As in the callow season when your heart
Was but the haunt and pairing-place and nest
Of nightingale and cuckoo, have enriched
Joy's inexperienced warblings with the note
Of mellow music, and whose mind mature,
Laden with life's sustaining lessons, still
Gleams bright with hope; even as I saw, to-day,
An April rainbow span the August corn.

Long may your green maturity maintain
Its universal season; and your voice,
A household sound, be heard about our hearths,
Now as a Christmas carol, now as the glee
Of vernal Maypole, now as harvest song.
And when, like light withdrawn from earth to heaven,
Your glorious gloaming fades into the sky,
We, looking upward, shall behold you there,
Shining amid the young unageing stars.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011


Alfred Austin

Alfred Austin DL was an English poet who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1896 upon the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. more…

All Alfred Austin poems | Alfred Austin Books

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"A Poet’s Eightieth Birthday" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 12 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/643/a-poet’s-eightieth-birthday>.

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