I love you, and I want it known
O disinherited, o mocked,
You whom the fickle public scorns,
You whom they like to call the failed.
For in this hour I throw myself
Into the fight – to strike and break
My lance, perhaps, and others too,
And be struck wickedly in turn.
For now desire within me burns,
My rivals I must face head-on,
Though I do not know who I am,
And though still less know I the score,
And though perhaps I am unfit
To mingle with the likes of you,
Or tread the battlefield today
Where I’ll pour out my twenty years.
I think of you, the dearly failed
With whom I may soon share a meal
In misery tonight. If so
I hope you’ll save a place for me.
From far away I ponder you;
To test myself, to know my heart,
I weigh my courage on the scale
Of sadnesses that you have borne.
If moved I was by japes they heaped
I feel I could move back, deny,
And make my way back home.
I’m sure I’d have an easy walk.
But no, I want the fight; I find
Your lot does not disgust, does not
Repel. I shrink not from your fate,
For it’s the one that I prefer.
The Philistines, I hear, have joys
That do outrun your own. But I
Will take the meager rations of
Your dreams, and not their splendid feasts.
A fall may come; it did for you,
But if the saddle throws me out
Well then, I land with you and take
A place among beloved friends.
To you the mocked, the booed, the heaped
With scorn, the countless outcast mob,
The would have beens, the never weres,
The throngs whom no one understands.
The ghost called Perfect haunted you,
The specter of the master-stroke
Until for want of pleasing him,
At last you pleased no one at all.
To you who carried in your head
Ideals too lovely to be wrought;
To you the poets of the verse
That never will be written down.
To you who filled your idle days
With projects proud and never done;
To you who chased ambitions grand,
In matters that were grander still.
To you whose sweeping thoughts could not
Abide within a narrow mold
Or fit a frame or take a shape
Without a break or overflow.
To you the painters in despair
Who found before a play of light
That colors always fled your grasp,
Who hurled your brushes in dismay.
To you composers who grew pale
At harmonies within your soul
And who for want of notes on page
Filled up your eyes with tears instead.
To you, whose art could not bring out
The subtleties you felt within
And chose therefore not to create,
O delicate, exquisite wastes!
To you, the egotists of sloth
Who keep your works within yourselves
To you, the true, the great, the grand
To you, the ruined; you, the fools.
To you who do not hear the scorn
Who triumph in the shabby nights
Who wave your madness on the streets
And hope to catch indifferent eyes.
You acrobatic characters;
You ugly, scruffy, grimacing,
You grotesque Don Quixotes, yes,
Are those who win my heart still more,
For Dulcinea is your muse
You errant knights of artistry
Whom chance alone perhaps denied
A moment in the sun of fame.
I am your brother and your friend,
A dreamer and a scatterbrain,
And I may know your misery
Before today is done, and so —
I dedicate these lines to you
The first that I have ever made,
O shock troops of Bohemia,
My friends, the lost; my friends, the failed!