Ode

Original Text: 
Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Music and Moonlight: Poems and Songs (London: Chatto and Windus, 1874): 1-5. 11649.aaa.53 British Library (copy of F. Palgrave). PR 5115 O4M8 Robarts Library
2    And we are the dreamers of dreams,
3Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
4    And sitting by desolate streams; --
5World-losers and world-forsakers,
6    On whom the pale moon gleams:
7Yet we are the movers and shakers
8    Of the world for ever, it seems.
9With wonderful deathless ditties
10We build up the world's great cities,
11    And out of a fabulous story
12    We fashion an empire's glory:
13One man with a dream, at pleasure,
14    Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
15And three with a new song's measure
16    Can trample a kingdom down.
17We, in the ages lying,
18    In the buried past of the earth,
21And o'erthrew them with prophesying
22    To the old of the new world's worth;
23For each age is a dream that is dying,
24    Or one that is coming to birth.
25A breath of our inspiration
26Is the life of each generation;
27    A wondrous thing of our dreaming
28    Unearthly, impossible seeming --
29The soldier, the king, and the peasant
30    Are working together in one,
31Till our dream shall become their present,
32    And their work in the world be done.
33They had no vision amazing
34Of the goodly house they are raising;
35    They had no divine foreshowing
36    Of the land to which they are going:
37But on one man's soul it hath broken,
38    A light that doth not depart;
39And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
40    Wrought flame in another man's heart.
41And therefore to-day is thrilling
42With a past day's late fulfilling;
43    And the multitudes are enlisted
44    In the faith that their fathers resisted,
45And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
46    Are bringing to pass, as they may,
47In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
48    The dream that was scorned yesterday.
49But we, with our dreaming and singing,
50    Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
51The glory about us clinging
52    Of the glorious futures we see,
53Our souls with high music ringing:
54    O men! it must ever be
55That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
56    A little apart from ye.
57For we are afar with the dawning
58    And the suns that are not yet high,
59And out of the infinite morning
60    Intrepid you hear us cry --
61How, spite of your human scorning,
62    Once more God's future draws nigh,
63And already goes forth the warning
64    That ye of the past must die.
65Great hail! we cry to the comers
66    From the dazzling unknown shore;
67Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
68    And renew our world as of yore;
69You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
70    And things that we dreamed not before:
71Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
72    And a singer who sings no more.

Notes

1] Palgrave writes in pencil, "some power & original -- hardly perfect enough" (p. 5). He especially disapproved of the word "amazing" (33) and of the rhyming of "dawning" and "morning" (57, 59).
Edward Elgar (1857-1934) set this poem to music for contralto solo, chorus, and orchestra (Opus 69; London: Novello, 1940; M 1533 E38 OP.69 Music Library). Zoltán Kodály also composed a piano-vocal score for the poem (London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1970; M 1533 K76M82 Music Library). Back to Line
19] Nineveh: ruined ancient city in Iraq, opposite Mosul on the Tigris River. Back to Line
20] Babel: see Genesis 10-11. Nimrod's city, famous for a tower built so high that God confounded its makers by causing them to speak in different tongues. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1874
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.