Read II.  PHILOSOPHIC VERSES of Songs Of The Road , free online book, by Arthur Conan Doyle, on


     The grime is on the window pane,
          Pale the London sunbeams fall,
     And show the smudge of mildew stain,
          Which lies on the distempered wall.

     I am a cripple, as you see,
          And here I lie, a broken thing,
     But God has given flight to me,
          That mocks the swiftest eagle wing.

     For if I will to see or hear,
          Quick as the thought my spirit flies,
     And lo! the picture flashes clear,
          Through all the mist of centuries.

Under a ten-league swirl of dust
The roaring battle swings and sways,
Now reeling down, now upward thrust,
The crescent sparkles through the

I see the Janissaries fly,
I see the chain-mailed leader fall,
I hear the Tekbar clear and high,
The true believer’s battle-call.

And tossing o’er the press I mark
The horse-tail banner over all,
Shaped like the smudge of mildew dark
That lies on the distempered wall.

And thus the meanest thing I see
Will set a scene within my brain,
And every sound that comes to me,
Will bring strange echoes back again.

Hark now!  In rhythmic monotone,
You hear the murmur of the mart,
The low, deep, unremitting moan,
That comes from weary London’s

But I can change it to the hum
Of multitudinous acclaim,
When triple-walled Byzantium,
Re-echoes the Imperial name.

     So I hear it rising, falling,
          Till it dies away once more,
     And I hear the costers calling
          Mid the weary London roar.

     Who shall pity then the lameness,
          Which still holds me from the ground? 
     Who commiserate the sameness
          Of the scene that girds me round?

     Though I lie a broken wreck,
          Though I seem to want for all,
     Still the world is at my beck
          And the ages at my call.


     There’s a banner in our van,
     And we follow as we can,
     For at times we scarce can see it,
     And at times it flutters high. 
     But however it be flown,
     Still we know it as our own,
     And we follow, ever follow,
     Where we see the banner fly.

     In the struggle and the strife,
     In the weariness of life,
     The banner-man may stumble,
     He may falter in the fight.
But if one should fail or slip,
     There are other hands to grip,
     And it’s forward, ever forward,
     From the darkness to the light.


     Faith may break on reason,
     Faith may prove a treason
          To that highest gift
          That is granted by Thy grace;
     But Hope!  Ah, let us cherish
     Some spark that may not perish,
          Some tiny spark to cheer us,
          As we wander through the waste!

     A little lamp beside us,
     A little lamp to guide us,
          Where the path is rocky,
          Where the road is steep.
That when the light falls dimmer,
     Still some God-sent glimmer
          May hold us steadfast ever,
          To the track that we should keep.

     Hope for the trending of it,
     Hope for the ending of it,
     Hope for all around us,
          That it ripens in the sun.

     Hope for what is waning,
     Hope for what is gaining,
     Hope for what is waiting
          When the long day is done.

     Hope that He, the nameless,
     May still be best and blameless,
          Nor ever end His highest
          With the earthworm and the slime.
Hope that o’er the border,
     There lies a land of order,
     With higher law to reconcile
          The lower laws of Time.

     Hope that every vexed life,
     Finds within that next life,
          Something that may recompense,
          Something that may cheer. 
     And that perchance the lowest one
     Is truly but the slowest one,
          Quickened by the sorrow
          Which is waiting for him here.


     God’s own best will bide the test,
          And God’s own worst will fall;
     But, best or worst or last or first,
          He ordereth it all.

     For all is good, if understood,
          (Ah, could we understand!)
     And right and ill are tools of skill
          Held in His either hand.

     Wisdom He makes to form the fruit
          Where the high blossoms be;
     And Lust to kill the weaker shoot,
          And Drink to trim the tree.

     And Holiness that so the bole
          Be solid at the core;
     And Plague and Fever, that the whole
          Be changing evermore.

     He tests the body and the mind,
          He rings them o’er and o’er;
     And if they crack, He throws them back,
          And fashions them once more.

     He chokes the infant throat with slime,
          He sets the ferment free;
     He builds the tiny tube of lime
          That blocks the artery.

     He stores the milk that feeds the babe,
          He dulls the tortured nerve;
     He gives a hundred joys of sense
          Where few or none might serve.

     And still He trains the branch of good
          Where the high blossoms be,
     And wieldeth still the shears of ill
          To prune and prime His tree.


     Man says that He is jealous,
          Man says that He is wise,
     Man says that He is watching
          From His throne beyond the skies.

     But perchance the arch above us
          Is one great mirror’s span,
     And the Figure seen so dimly
          Is a vast reflected man.

     If it is love that gave us
          A thousand blossoms bright,
     Why should that love not save us
          From poisoned aconite?

     If you may sing His praises
          For health He gave to you,
     What of this spine-curved cripple,
          Shall he sing praises too?

     If you may justly thank Him
          For strength in mind and limb,
     Then what of yonder weakling —
          Must he give thanks to Him?

     Ah dark, too dark, the riddle! 
          The tiny brain too small! 
     We call, and fondly listen,
          For answer to that call.


     Great was his soul and high his aim,
     He viewed the world, and he could trace
     A lofty plan to leave his name
     Immortal ’mid the human race. 
     But as he planned, and as he worked,
     The fungus spore within him lurked.

     Though dark the present and the past,
     The future seemed a sunlit thing. 
     Still ever deeper and more vast,
     The changes that he hoped to bring. 
     His was the will to dare and do;
     But still the stealthy fungus grew.


A gentleman of wit and charm,
A kindly heart, a cleanly mind,
One who was quick with hand or purse,
To lift the burden of his kind. 
A brain well balanced and mature,
A soul that shrank from all things
So rode he forth that winter day,
Complete in every mortal grace.

And then the blunder of a horse,
The crash upon the frozen clods,
And Death?  Ah! no such dignity,
But Life, all twisted and at odds!
At odds in body and in soul,
Degraded to some brutish state,
A being loathsome and malign,
Debased, obscene, degenerate.

     Pathology?  The case is clear,
          The diagnosis is exact;
     A bone depressed, a haemorrhage,
          The pressure on a nervous tract. 
     Theology?  Ah, there’s the rub! 
          Since brain and soul together fade,
     Then when the brain is dead enough! 
          Lord help us, for we need Thine aid!