For ever, since my childish looks Could rest on Nature's pictured books; For ever, since my childish tongue Could name the themes our bards have sung; So long, the sweetness of their singing Hath been to me a rapture bringing! Yet ask me not the reason why I have delight in minstrelsy.
I know that much whereof I sing, Is shapen but for vanishing; I know that summer's flower and leaf And shine and shade are very brief, And that the heart they brighten, may, Before them all, be sheathed in clay! -- I do not know the reason why I have delight in minstrelsy.
A few there are, whose smile and praise My minstrel hope, would kindly raise: But, of those few -- Death may impress The lips of some with silentness; While some may friendship's faith resign, And heed no more a song of mine. -- Ask not, ask not the reason why I have delight in minstrelsy.
The sweetest song that minstrels sing, Will charm not Joy to tarrying; The greenest bay that earth can grow, Will shelter not in burning woe; A thousand voices will not cheer, When one is mute that aye is dear! -- Is there, alas! no reason why I have delight in minstrelsy.
I do not know! The turf is green Beneath the rain's fast-dropping sheen, Yet asks not why that deeper hue Doth all its tender leaves renew; -- And I, like-minded, am content, While music to my soul is sent, To question not the reason why I have delight in minstrelsy.
Years pass -- my life with them shall pass: And soon, the cricket in the grass And summer bird, shall louder sing Than she who owns a minstrel's string. Oh then may some, the dear and few, Recall her love, whose truth they knew; When all forget to question why She had delight in minstrelsy!