Monday, 17 October 2016

Poetry Revisited: Ballade of the Optimist by Andrew Lang

Ballade of the Optimist

(from New Collected Rhymes: 1905)

Heed not the folk who sing or say
In sonnet sad or sermon chill,
“Alas, alack, and well-a-day,
This round world’s but a bitter pill.”
Poor porcupines of fretful quill!
Sometimes we quarrel with our lot:
We, too, are sad and careful; still
We’d rather be alive than not.

What though we wish the cats at play
Would some one else’s garden till;
Though Sophonisba drop the tray
And all our worshipped Worcester spill,
Though neighbours “practise” loud and shrill,
Though May be cold and June be hot,
Though April freeze and August grill,
We’d rather be alive than not.

And, sometimes on a summer’s day
To self and every mortal ill
We give the slip, we steal away,
To walk beside some sedgy rill:
The darkening years, the cares that kill,
A little while are well forgot;
When deep in broom upon the hill,
We’d rather be alive than not.

Pistol, with oaths didst thou fulfil
The task thy braggart tongue begot,
We eat our leek with better will,
We’d rather be alive than not.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and anthropologist


  1. I like this one. I guess I am an optimist underneath all my pessimistic thoughts. Except for that last verse. It seemed too far out of context with the rest of the poem.

    1. I agree that the last verse seems a bit strange, but maybe people a hundred years ago could relate to it. I don't know.


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