We Are The Music-Makers: Arthur O’Shaughnessy


We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy 1844-1881

The illustration is copyright: Bruce Rolff via Shutterstock

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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2 Responses to We Are The Music-Makers: Arthur O’Shaughnessy

  1. I more or less learned this poem by heart last year. I love its take on the power of story and song (and presumably poetry) to change things, even if the makers seem peripheral, mopey creatures.

    I read somewhere (I think it was in ‘Poem for the Day’) that we owe this three-stanza edition to Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse – the original was much longer. There was an implication that the long version was dull, but when I looked it up I thought it had some of the other stanzas were good too.

  2. layanglicana says:

    Many thanks for this, Chris. At the period he was writing, it would have been normal to have written a longer poem, wouldn’t it? I will dig around and try and find the extra verses – thanks for the tip.

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