Now am I also with my face to a wall, Raferty, aplaying music unto empty pockets;
Eyes without light—not blind as you were, but stone of stupor sunken in sockets.
Such has been the fate of poets in all ages. No wonder that on the whole as a tribe
—And in this machine age more than before—we are the butt of ridicule and jibe.
We should have taken up weapon-improvement or designing architectural oddities,
Instead of being beggars at doors for love—for love is in shortest supply of all commodities.
No wonder we take to drink, and in drunkenness are unashamed—
For in wine is nearness to our Beloved, and, drunk or sober, our way of life is blamed.
What can the easy-talkers with their heaped tables and air-conditioned and companioned sleep
Know of our plight who plough and sow but no golden harvests ever reap?
Let them condemn us if it pleases them—we, being poets, have always the last word:
We can make cradle songs for mothers and equally well forge a keen sword.
What does it matter, Raferty, that we play unto empty pockets,
That we must go our way by the light in our hearts because our eyes are stone sunken in sockets?
The Raferty of the first and last stanzas was Antoine Ó Raifteirí (also Antoine Ó Reachtabhra, Anthony Raftery) (1779–1835) an Irish language poet who is often called the last of the wandering bards. He was blind and is said to have lost his sight after seeing his eight siblings in stark death lying side by side in the family hut. He lived a life of poverty and wandering.
Poets in the modern world gain neither wealth nor esteem. The life Francis has chosen reaps no reward in the eyes of the world. He is a beggar for love, which can’t really be found as a commodity. Trying to live a life of rhapsodic praise seems ridiculous to most.
But the poet has great powers, even if hidden, songs for infant ears and biting attacks on false values.
The affirmation of the poem is summed up by the difference between the first and last stanzas.