« PreviousContinue »
"Where wert thou when thy father play'd In his free field, and pastime made, A merry boy in sun and shade?
"A merry boy they called him then,
"Before the little ducts began
To feed thy bones with lime, and ran
"Who took a wife, who rear'd his race, Whose wrinkles gather'd on his face, Whose troubles number with his days:
"A life of nothings, nothing worth, From that first nothing ere his birth To that last nothing under earth!"
"These words," I said, "are like the rest, No certain clearness, but at best A vague suspicion of the breast:
“But if I grant, thou might'st defend The thesis which thy words intendThat to begin implies to end;
"Yet how should I for certain hold, Because my memory is so cold, That I first was in human mould?
"I cannot make this matter plain, But I would shoot, howe'er in vain, A random arrow from the brain.
"It may be that no life is found, Which only to one engine bound Falls off, but cycles always round.
"As old mythologies relate,
Some draught of Lethe might await
"As here we find in trances, men Forget the dream that happens then, Until they fall in trance again.
"So might we, if our state were such As one before, remember much, For those two likes might meet and touch.
"But, if I lapsed from nobler place,
"Some vague emotion of delight In gazing up an Alpine height, Some yearning toward the lamps of night.
"And men, whose reason long was blind, From cells of madness unconfined, Oft lose whole years of darker mind.
"Much more, if first I floated free, As naked essence, must I be Incompetent of memory:
"For memory dealing but with time, And he with matter, could she climb Beyond her own material prime?
"Moreover, something is or seems, That touches me with mystic gleams, Like glimpses of forgotten dreams
"Of something felt, like something here; Of something done, I know not where; Such as no language may declare.”
The still voice laugh'd. “I talk,” said he, "Not with thy dreams. Suffice it thee Thy pain is a reality."
"But thou," said I, "hast miss'd thy mark, Who sought'st to wreck my mortal ark, By making all the horizon dark.
"Why not set forth, if I should do
66 Whatever crazy sorrow saith,
No life that breathes with human breath Has ever truly long'd for death.
"'Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant, O life, not death, for which we pant; More life, and fuller, that I want."
I ceased, and sat as one forlorn. Then said the voice, in quiet scorn, "Behold, it is the Sabbath morn."
And I arose, and I released
Like soften'd airs that blowing steal,
On to God's house the people prest : Passing the place where each must rest, Each enter'd like a welcome guest.
One walk'd between his wife and child, With measured footfall firm and mild, And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood Lean'd on him, faithful, gentle, good, Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
These three made unity so sweet,
I blest them, and they wander'd on:
A second voice was at mine ear,
As from some blissful neighborhood,
A little hint to solace woe,
A hint, a whisper breathing low,
Like an Æolian harp that wakes
Such seem'd the whisper at my side: "What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?" I cried. "A hidden hope," the voice replied:
So heavenly-toned, that in that hour
To feel, altho' no tongue can prove,
And forth into the fields I went,
I wonder'd at the bounteous hours,
The slow result of winter showers: