Where shall be found the niche unfill’d,—
A spot unclaim’d, a field untill’d?
Who may secure a vacant space
Fairly to run and win the race?
Or who can gain a name of worth
For any newer praise on earth,—
Or hope to reach a lucky prize
For any good beneath the skies?
All is used up; around, about,
Every place is crowded out,—
Every father wonders where
And how his children are to fare,—
Every son looks out in vain
To catch a chance his bread to gain:
Honest Labour now must ask
Leave to ply the coarsest task,
Vainly Skill his craft bestirs,
Vainly Taste her claim prefers,
Courage faints in heart and limb
To find so little call for him,
Enterprize is lost to know
What to do or where to go,
Even Fancy far must roam
To give her emigrants a home,
Even Genius scarce can find
Work for his energetic mind!
All is used up; and mainly thus
All occasion lost to us;
Slender chances now remain
For greatness, glory, or for gain;
Little hope for one to rise
Among so many made so wise.
Scholars? — very children now
Carry bookshelves in their brow:
Poets? — many a slander’d name
Misses, though it merits, Fame:
Heroes? — since Achilles frown’d
Never yet were braver found:
Sages many? — yet how few
Give philosophers their due:
Painting, Sculpture? — where of yore
Was Art so served or starved before?
Shrewd Invention? — when of old
Was ill-paid Mind more keen or bold?
Eloquence, with silent lip,—
Cureless curates by the score,—
Briefless lawyers more and more;
What a seeming waste of strength
Progress has evoked at length,—
What developments are here
For every single self to fear!
Well: but this excess of wealth,
Is it not a nation’s health,
Better wealth than gold can get,
The People’s level higher set?
Could any wish in any sense
A smaller sum of excellence,—
Taste and talent disallow’d,
And knowledge hidden from the crowd?
No! learned light and pious zeal
Have well advanced this common weal,
And blest the average lot of man,
And widen’d well his being’s plan,
And kindly raised his nature up,
And given him drink of learning’s cup.
What then, — O selfish one and proud,
If fewer names outshine the crowd?
Was it so well those few were found
Starring the former darkness round,
Nor better that the light of day
Should seem to quench their lamps away?
This kindlier dawn that pales their fires
A happy universe inspires;
And many gain what few have lost,
And small ones feed at great ones’ cost,
And thousands quaff a spicier cup,
Because the few find fame used up.
(Martin Farquhar Tupper)
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Based on Keywords: cureless, coarsest, starring, enterprize, undiscover, disallow, emigrants, length-, bestirs, bookshelves, curates