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A Valentine's Song
by Robert Louis Stevenson

MOTLEY I count the only wear
That suits, in this mixed world, the truly wise,
Who boldly smile upon despair
And shake their bells in Grandam Grundy's eyes.
Singers should sing with such a goodly cheer
That the bare listening should make strong like wine,
At this unruly time of year,
The Feast of Valentine.

We do not now parade our "oughts"
And "shoulds" and motives and beliefs in God.
Their life lies all indoors; sad thoughts
Must keep the house, while gay thoughts go abroad,
Within we hold the wake for hopes deceased;
But in the public streets, in wind or sun,
Keep open, at the annual feast,
The puppet-booth of fun.

Our powers, perhaps, are small to please,
But even negro-songs and castanettes,
Old jokes and hackneyed repartees
Are more than the parade of vain regrets.
Let Jacques stand Wert(h)ering by the wounded deer -
We shall make merry, honest friends of mine,
At this unruly time of year,
The Feast of Valentine.

I know how, day by weary day,
Hope fades, love fades, a thousand pleasures fade.
I have not trudged in vain that way
On which life's daylight darkens, shade by shade.
And still, with hopes decreasing, griefs increased,
Still, with what wit I have shall I, for one,
Keep open, at the annual feast,
The puppet-booth of fun.

I care not if the wit be poor,
The old worn motley stained with rain and tears,
If but the courage still endure
That filled and strengthened hope in earlier years;
If still, with friends averted, fate severe,
A glad, untainted cheerfulness be mine
To greet the unruly time of year,
The Feast of Valentine.

Priest, I am none of thine, and see
In the perspective of still hopeful youth
That Truth shall triumph over thee -
Truth to one's self - I know no other truth.
I see strange days for thee and thine, O priest,
And how your doctrines, fallen one by one,
Shall furnish at the annual feast
The puppet-booth of fun.

Stand on your putrid ruins - stand,
White neck-clothed bigot, fixedly the same,
Cruel with all things but the hand,
Inquisitor in all things but the name.
Back, minister of Christ and source of fear -
We cherish freedom - back with thee and thine
From this unruly time of year,
The Feast of Valentine.

Blood thou mayest spare; but what of tears?
But what of riven households, broken faith -
Bywords that cling through all men's years
And drag them surely down to shame and death?
Stand back, O cruel man, O foe of youth,
And let such men as hearken not thy voice
Press freely up the road to truth,
The King's highway of choice.

Submitted by Ruth Baxendale

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