Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

THE SHEPHERD OF KING ADMETUS

Once a year the children learn "The Shepherd of King Admetus," which is one of the finest poems ever written as showing the possible growth of real history into mythology, the tendency of mankind to deify what is fine or sublime in human action. Not every child will learn this entire poem, because it is too long. But every child will learn the best lines in it while the children are teaching it to me and when I take my turn in teaching it to them. No child fails to catch the spirit and intent of the poem and to become entirely familiar with it. (1819-91.)

There came a youth upon the earth,

Some thousand years ago,

Whose slender hands were nothing worth,

Whether to plow, or reap, or sow.


Upon an empty tortoise-shell

He stretched some chords, and drew

Music that made men's bosoms swell

Fearless, or brimmed their eyes with dew.


Then King Admetus, one who had

Pure taste by right divine,

Decreed his singing not too bad

To hear between the cups of wine:


And so, well pleased with being soothed

Into a sweet half-sleep,

[172]

Three times his kingly beard he smoothed,

And made him viceroy o'er his sheep.


His words were simple words enough,

And yet he used them so,

That what in other mouths was rough

In his seemed musical and low.


Men called him but a shiftless youth,

In whom no good they saw;

And yet, unwittingly, in truth,

They made his careless words their law.


They knew not how he learned at all,

For idly, hour by hour,

He sat and watched the dead leaves fall,

Or mused upon a common flower.


It seemed the loveliness of things

Did teach him all their use,

For, in mere weeds, and stones, and springs,

He found a healing power profuse.


Men granted that his speech was wise,

But, when a glance they caught

Of his slim grace and woman's eyes,

They laughed, and called him good-for-naught.


Yet after he was dead and gone,

And e'en his memory dim,

Earth seemed more sweet to live upon,

More full of love, because of him.


[173]

And day by day more holy grew

Each spot where he had trod,

Till after-poets only knew

Their first-born brother as a god.


JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Columbus  |  Next: How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.