Their clouded wine, their whited bread,
We cannot take and call it good;
Yet sorrier fare Life grudges us 
Who have no taste for common food.

We must go hungry long life through, 
Aching and hungry to the end;
Betrayed by pity into chains 
Reason tries vainly to transcend.

Are we not sadly prodigal?
We spend ourselves without restraint;
Yea, we let Beauty break our hearts 
And bleed for love until we faint.

Yet it is not the thorns, the shame,
Not the hurt body’s weak distress:
Our bitterest crucifixion lies 
In man’s abject unworthiness.

From Life’s rough cloth and flying threads,
From dust, from passion, dreams and pain, 
From the dear madness men call love,
From faith that lies beyond the brain,

We shape the only deathless soul 
That mortal man will ever know.
Behold his gratitude, these stones.
They say ‘t is by the heart we grow.

Still we build quietly and wait.
The heart may break; the heart is frail; 
But a stern, strange ecstasy 
Befriends us; and we dare not fail.

The Hand that points the solemn way 
May be a wanton hand at best;
The great Word echoing in our souls 
May be a bored God’s casual jest.

We cannot guess. We only know 
‘T is written by some awful Pen 
We must be torches sacrificed 
To light the way for lesser men.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.