Ina Coolbrith


“The song were sweeter and better
If only the thought were glad.”
Be hidden the chafe of the fetter, 
The scars of the wounds you have had; 
Be silent of strife and endeavor, 
But shout of the victory won! 
You may sit in the shadow forever, 
If only you’ll sing of the sun.

There are hearts, you must know, over tender
With the wine of the joy-cup of years; 
One might dim for a moment the splendor
Of eyes unaccustomed to tears: 
So sing, if you must, with the gladness
That brimmed the lost heart of your youth, 
Lest you breath, in the song and its sadness, 
The secret of life at its truth.

O, violets, born of the valley, 
You are sweet in the sun and the dew; 
But your sisters, in yonder dim alley, 
Are sweeter-and paler-than you! 
O, birds, you are blith in the meadow, 
But your mates of the forest I love; 
And sweeter their songs in the shadow, 
Though sadder the singing thereof! 

To the weary in life’s wildernesses
The soul of the singer belongs.
Small need, in your green, sunny places, 
Glad dwellers, have you of my songs.
For you the blith birds of the meadow
Trill silverly sweet, every one; 
But I can not sit in the shadow
Forever, and sing of the sun.