Ralph Hodgson

Here you will find the Long Poem The Song Of Honour of poet Ralph Hodgson

The Song Of Honour

I climbed a hill as light fell short, 
And rooks came home in scramble sort, 
And filled the trees and flapped and fought 
And sang themselves to sleep; 
An owl from nowhere with no sound 
Swung by and soon was nowhere found, 
I heard him calling half-way round, 
Holloing loud and deep; 
A pair of stars, faint pins of light, 
Then many a star, sailed into sight, 
And all the stars, the flower of night, 
Were round me at a leap; 
To tell how still the valleys lay 
I heard a watchdog miles away. . . . 
And bells of distant sheep. 

I heard no more of bird or bell, 
The mastiff in a slumber fell, 
I stared into the sky, 
As wondering men have always done 
Since beauty and the stars were one, 
Though none so hard as I. 

It seemed, so still the valleys were, 
As if the whole world knelt in prayer, 
Save me and me alone; 
So pure and wide that silence was 
I feared to bend a blade of grass, 
And there I stood like a stone. 

There, sharp and sudden, there I heard -- 
Ah! Some wild lovesick singing bird 
Woke singing in the trees? 
The nightingale and babble-wren 
Were in the English greenwood then, 
And you heard one of these? 

The babble-wren and the nightingale 
Sang in the Abyssinian vale 
That season of the year! 
Yet, true enough, I heard them plain, 
I heard them both again, again, 
As sharp and sweet and clear 
As if the Abyssinian tree 
Had thrust a bough across the sea, 
Had thrust a bough across to me 
With music for my ear! 

I heard them both, and oh! I heard 
The song of every singing bird 
That sings beneath the sky, 
And with the song of lark and wren 
The song of mountains, moths and men 
And seas and rainbows vie! 

I heard the universal choir 
The Sons of Light exalt their Sire 
With universal song, 
Earth's lowliest and loudest noes, 
Her million times ten million throats 
Exalt Him loud and long, 
And lips and lungs and tongues of Grace 
From every part and every place 
Within the shining of His face, 
The universal throng. 

I heard the hymn of being sound 
From every well of honour found 
In human sense and soul: 
The song of poets when they write 
The testament of Beautysprite 
Upon a flying scroll, 
The song of painters when they take 
A burning brush for Beauty's sake 
And limn her features whole -- 

The song of men divinely wise 
Who look and see in starry skies 
Not stars so much as robins' eyes, 
And when these pale away 
Her flocks of shiny pleiades 
Among the plums and apple trees 
Sing in the summer day -- 
The song of all both high and low 
To some blest vision true, 
The song of beggars when they throw 
The crust of pity all men owe 
To hungry sparrows in the snow, 
Old beggars hungry too -- 
The song of kings of kingdoms when 
They rise above their fortune men, 
And crown themselves anew, -- 

The song of courage, heart and will 
And gladness in a fight, 
Of men who face a hopeless hill 
With sparking and delight, 
The bells and bells of song that ring 
Round banners of a cause or king 
From armies bleeding white -- 

The song of sailors every one 
When monstrous tide and tempest run 
At ships like bulls at red, 
When stately ships are twirled and spun 
Like whipping tops and help there's none 
And mighty ships ten thousand ton 
Go down like lumps of lead -- 

And song of fighters stern as they 
At odds with fortune night and day, 
Crammed up in cities grim and grey 
As thick as bees in hives, 
Hosannas of a lowly throng 
Who sing unconscious of their song, 
Whose lips are in their lives -- 

And song of some at holy war 
With spells and ghouls more dread by far 
Than deadly seas and cities are, 
Or hordes of quarelling kings -- 
The song of fighters great and small, 
The song of pretty fighters all, 
And high heroic things -- 

The song of lovers -- who knows how 
Twitched up from place and time 
Upon a sigh, a blush, a vow, 
A curve or hue of cheek or brow, 
Borne up and off from here and now 
Into the void sublime! 

And crying loves and passions still 
In every key from soft to shrill 
And numbers never done, 
Dog-loyalties to faith and friend, 
And loves like Ruth's of old no end, 
And intermission none -- 

And burst on burst for beauty and 
For numbers not behind, 
From men whose love of motherland 
Is like a dog's for one dear hand, 
Sole, selfless, boundless, blind -- 
And song of some with hearts beside 
For men and sorrows far and wide, 
Who watch the world with pity and pride 
And warm to all mankind -- 

And endless joyous music rise 
From children at their play, 
And endless soaring lullabies 
From happy, happy mot