Poems, ed. Robert A. Thompson (London and Melbourne: A. H. Massina, 1920). Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit
2 Of this fruitful earth like a goblin elf;
3Why should he labour to help his neighbour
4 Who feels too reckless to help himself?
5The wail of the breeze in the bending trees
6 Is something between a laugh and a groan;
7And the hollow roar of the surf on the shore
8 Is a dull, discordant monotone;
9I wish I could guess what sense they express,
10 There's a meaning, doubtless, in every sound,
11Yet no one can tell, and it may be as well --
12 Whom would it profit? the world goes round!
13On this earth so rough we know quite enough,
14 And, I sometimes fancy, a little too much;
16 Is he more to be envied for being such?
17Neither more nor less, in his idleness
18 The sage is doom'd to vexation sure;
19The kaiser may rule, but the slippery stool,
21And as for the clown, you may give him a crown,
22 Maybe he'll thank you, and maybe not,
23And before you can wink, he may spend it in drink --
24 To whom does it profit? -- We ripe and rot!
25Yet under the sun much work is done
26 By clown and kaiser, by serf and sage;
27All sow and some reap, and few gather the heap
28 Of the garner'd grain of a by-gone age.
29By sea or by soil man is bound to toil,
30 And the dreamer, waiting for time and tide,
31For awhile may shirk his share of the work,
32 But he grows with his dream dissatisfied;
34 Where the loose crag topples and well-nigh reels
35'Neath the lashing gale, but the tonic will fail --
36 What does it profit? -- Wheels within wheels!
37Aye! work we must, or with idlers rust,
38 And eat we must our bodies to nurse;
39Some folk grow fatter -- what does it matter?
40 I'm blest if I do -- quite the reverse;
41'Tis a weary round to which we are bound,
42 The same thing over and over again;
43Much toil and trouble, and a glittering bubble,
44 That rises and bursts, is the best we gain;
45And we murmur, and yet 'tis certain we get
46 What good we deserve -- can we hope for more? --
47They are roaring, those waves, in their echoing caves --
48 To whom do they profit? -- Let them roar!
1] Cui bono: a Latin phrase meaning approximately, "for whose benefit, for what purpose?" Back to Line
15] kaiser: any of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire (982-1806), Austria (1806-1918) or Germany (1871-1918); also, the general title for a ruler of that scale. Back to Line
20] sinecure: a position requiring little or no work, but giving the holder status or financial benefit. Back to Line
33] beetling: something that overhangs threateningly. Back to Line
Publication Start Year:
Sea Spray and Smoke Drift (1867)
RPO poem Editors:
Cameron La Follette