The poem was first published in 1886 as part of O'Reilly's final collection of poetry, In Bohemia. O’Reilly’s determination to address social problems in his poetry is the key theme of In Bohemia. In that sense it is similar to his earlier works. Yet, as a whole, the collection is of a more personal nature than his previous volume, The Statues in the Block. In poems such as ‘The Cry of the Dreamer’ and ‘In Bohemia’ O’Reilly is not looking down on events, as in poems such as ‘From the Earth, a Cry’, but is ensconced in the midst of the society which he is criticising. The poet is on the street and amongst the crowds and he does not like what he sees. An analysis of o'Reilly's work can be found in my biography of O'Reilly.
I'd rather live in Bohemia than in any other land;
For only there are the values true,
And the laurels gathered in all men's view.
The prizes of traffic and state are won
By shrewdness or force or by deeds undone;
But fame is sweeter without the feud,
And the wise of Bohemia are never shrewd.
Here, pilgrims stream with a faith sublime
From every class and clime and time,
Aspiring only to be enroiled
With the names that are writ in the book of gold;
And each one bears in mind or hand
A palm of the dear Bohemian land.
The scholar first, with his book--a youth
Aflame with the glory of harvested truth;
A girl with a picture, a man with a play,
A boy with a wolf he has modeled in clay;
A smith with a marvelous hilt and sword,
A player, a king, a ploughman, a lord--
And the player is king when the door is past.
The ploughman is crowned, and the lord is last!
I'd rather fail in Bohemia than win in another land;
There are no titles inherited there,
No hoard or hope for the brainless heir;
No gilded dullard native born
To stare at his fellow with leaden scorn:
Bohemia has none but adopted sons;
Its limits, where Fancy's bright stream runs;
Its honors, not garnered for thrift or trade,
But for beauty and truth men's souls have made.
To the empty heart in a jeweled breast
There is value, maybe, in a purchased crest;
But the thirsty of soul soon learn to know
The moistureless froth of the social show;
The vulgar sham of the pompous feast
Where the heaviest purse is the highest priest;
The organized charity, scrimped and iced,
In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ;
The smile restrained, the respectable cant,
When a friend in need is a friend in want;
Where the only aim is to keep afloat,
And a brother may drown with a cry in his throat.
Oh, I long for the glow of a kindly heart and the grasp of a friendly hand,
And I'd rather live in Bohemia than in any other land.