To an Ungentle Critic by Robert Graves

The great sun sinks behind the town
Through a red mist of Volnay wine . . . .
But what’s the use of setting down
That glorious blaze behind the town?
You’ll only skip the page, you’ll look
For newer pictures in this book;
You’ve read of sunsets rich as mine.

A fresh wind fills the evening air
With horrid crying of night birds . . . .
But what reads new or curious there
When cold winds fly across the air?
You’ll only frown; you’ll turn the page,
But find no glimpse of your ‘New Age
Of Poetry’ in my worn-out words.

Must winds that cut like blades of steel
And sunsets swimming in Volnay,
The holiest, cruellest pains I feel,
Die stillborn, because old men squeal
For something new: ‘Write something new:
We’ve read this poem – that one too,
And twelve more like ’em yesterday’?

No, no! my chicken, I shall scrawl
Just what I fancy as I strike it,
Fairies and Fusiliers, and all.
Old broken knock-kneed thought will crawl
Across my verse in the classic way.
And, sir, be careful what you say;
There are old-fashioned folk still like it.

Robert Graves


About Russell Boyle

Russell Boyle is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. His poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness. Russell is the author of the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 to 10 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Sample poems and questions may be downloaded from
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6 Responses to To an Ungentle Critic by Robert Graves

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Well, poets are simply remarkable.
    “With horrid crying of night bird…”
    I have never heard this,
    especially in Australia,
    or at The Holler.
    I hear owls.
    They lull me to sleep.

  2. I’m one of the old-fashioned folks, I guess. I liked it.

    • russellboyle says:

      Thanks, Tony. It’s easy for critics, who are often bereft of talent and original thought, to judge quickly and harshly the creative endevaour of the artist. History often proves them wrong.
      [audio src="" /]

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