In a great land, a new land, a land full of labour
and riches and confusion,
Where there were many running to and fro, and
shouting, and striving together,
In the midst of the hurry and the troubled noise,
I heard the voice of one singing.
"What are you doing there, O man, singing
quietly amid all this tumult?
This is the time for new inventions, mighty
shoutings, and blowings of the trumpet.
But he answered, "I am only shepherding my
sheep with music.
So he went along his chosen way, keeping his
little flock around him;
And he paused to listen, now and then, beside
the antique fountains,
Where the faces of forgotten gods were refreshed
with musically falling waters;
Or he sat for a while at the blacksmith's door,
and heard the cling-clang of the anvils;
Or he rested beneath old steeples full of bells,
that showered their chimes upon him;
Or he walked along the border of the sea,
drinking in the long roar of the billows;
Or he sunned himself in the pine-scented ship-
yard, amid the tattoo of the mallets;
Or he leaned on the rail of the bridge, letting
his thoughts flow with the whispering river;
He hearkened also to ancient tales, and made
them young again with his singing.
Then a flaming arrow of death fell on his flock,
and pierced the heart of his dearest!
Silent the music now, as the shepherd entered
the mystical temple of sorrow:
Long he tarried in darkness there: but when he
came out he was singing.
And I saw the faces of men and women and
children silently turning toward him;
The youth setting out on the journey of life, and
the old man waiting beside the last mile-stone;
The toiler sweating beneath his load; and the
happy mother rocking her cradle;
The lonely sailor on far-off seas; and the grey-
minded scholar in his book-room;
The mill-hand bound to a clacking machine; and
the hunter in the forest;
And the solitary soul hiding friendless in the
wilderness of the city;
Many human faces, full of care and longing, were
drawn irresistibly toward him,
By the charm of something known to every heart,
yet very strange and lovely,
And at the sound of that singing wonderfully
all their faces were lightened.
"Why do you listen, O you people, to this old
and world-worn music?
This is not for you, in the splendour of a new
age, in the democratic triumph!
Listen to the clashing cymbals, the big drums, the
brazen trumpets of your poets.
But the people made no answer, following in
their hearts the simpler music:
For it seemed to them, noise-weary, nothing
could be better worth the hearing
Than the melodies which brought sweet order
into life's confusion.
So the shepherd sang his way along, until he
came unto a mountain:
And I know not surely whether it was called
But he climbed it out of sight, and still I heard
the voice of one singing.
Top Henry Van Dyke Poems