Hail! Childish slaves of social rules
You had yourselves a hand in making!
How I could shake your faith, ye fools,
If but I thought it worth the shaking.
I see, and pity you; and then
Go, casting off the idle pity,
In search of better, braver men,
My own way freely through the city.
My own way freely, and not yours;
And, careless of a town's abusing,
Seek real friendship that endures
Among the friends of my own choosing.
I'll choose my friends myself, do you hear?
And won't let Mrs. Grundy do it,
Tho' all I honour and hold dear
And all I hope should move me to it.
I take my old coat from the shelf -
I am a man of little breeding.
And only dress to please myself -
I own, a very strange proceeding.
I smoke a pipe abroad, because
To all cigars I much prefer it,
And as I scorn your social laws
My choice has nothing to deter it.
Gladly I trudge the footpath way,
While you and yours roll by in coaches
In all the pride of fine array,
Through all the city's thronged approaches.
O fine religious, decent folk,
In Virtue's flaunting gold and scarlet,
I sneer between two puffs of smoke, -
Give me the publican and harlot.
Ye dainty-spoken, stiff, severe
Seed of the migrated Philistian,
One whispered question in your ear -
Pray, what was Christ, if you be Christian?
If Christ were only here just now,
Among the city's wynds and gables
Teaching the life he taught us, how
Would he be welcome to your tables?
I go and leave your logic-straws,
Your former-friends with face averted,
Your petty ways and narrow laws,
Your Grundy and your God, deserted.
From your frail ark of lies, I flee
I know not where, like Noah's raven.
Full to the broad, unsounded sea
I swim from your dishonest haven.
Alone on that unsounded deep,
Poor waif, it may be I shall perish,
Far from the course I thought to keep,
Far from the friends I hoped to cherish.
It may be that I shall sink, and yet
Hear, thro' all taunt and scornful laughter,
Through all defeat and all regret,
The stronger swimmers coming after.
Robert Louis Stevenson, poem named after its first line.