I like to think that when I fall,
A rain-drop in Death's shoreless sea,
This shelf of books along the wall,
Beside my bed, will mourn for me.
Regard it. . . . Aye, my taste is queer.
Some of my bards you may disdain.
Shakespeare and Milton are not here;
Shelly and Keats you seek in vain.
Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning too,
Remarkably are not in view.
Who are they? Omar first you see,
With Vine and Rose and Nightingale,
Voicing my pet philosphy
Of Wine and Song. . . . Then Reading Gaol,
Where Fate a gruesome pattern makes,
And dawn-light shudders as it wakes.
The Ancient Mariner is next,
With eerie and terrific text;
The Burns, with pawky human touch -
Poor devil! I have loved him much.
And now a gay quartette behold:
Bret Harte and Eugene Field are here;
And Henly, chanting brave and bold,
And Chesteron, in praise of Beer.
Lastly come valiant Singers three;
To whom this strident Day belongs:
Kipling, to whom I bow the knee,
Masefield, with rugged sailor songs. . . .
And to my lyric troupe I add
With greatful heart - The Shropshire Lad.
Behold my minstrels, just eleven.
For half my life I've loved them well.
And though I have no hope of Heaven,
And more than Highland fear of Hell,
May I be damned if on this shelf
ye find a rhyme I made myself.
Robert William Service