For God’s sake, let me not go mad,
far better beggar’s staff and plaid,
   far better toil or hunger choose.
But not that I would grimly cling
to intellect as to a thing
   I greatly fear to lose:

Were I but left at liberty
to roam at will, exultantly
   I’d race by woods and streams!
and sing delirious, overjoyed
oblivious in a swirling void
of wild and wondrous dreams.

Enrapt in dreams that never cloy,
I’d gaze aloft suffused with joy,
   into the empty skies;
I would be willful, wild and free,
a whirlwind roaring from the sea,
   destroying as it flies.

But there’s the rub: once lose your mind
and you’re a terror to mankind,
   they’ll take you when they please,
attach you to the idiot’s chain
and through the bars time and again
   they’ll come to poke and tease.

At night the sounds that I shall hear
will not be nightingales I fear
   no oak woods solemn strains—
but cries of those who share my plight,
the curse of warders in the night,
the shriek and clank of chains.

This Issue

April 2, 1981