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"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,
He sat upon the knees of men
In days that never come again.

"Before the little ducts began

To feed thy bones with lime, and ran
Their course, till thou wert also man:

"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
The slipping thro' from state to state.

"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 legend of a fallen race
Alone might hint of my disgrace;

"Some vague emotion of delight In gazing up an Alpine height, Some yearning toward the lamps of night.

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"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
This rashness, that which might ensue
With this old soul in organs new?

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
The casement, and the light increased
With freshness in the dawning east.

Like soften'd airs that blowing steal,
When meres begin to uncongeal,
The sweet church bells began to peal.

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,
The little maiden walk'd demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.

These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.

I blest them, and they wander'd on:
I spoke, but answer came there none :
The dull and bitter voice was gone.


A second voice was at mine ear,
A little whisper silver-clear,
A murmur, "Be of better cheer."

As from some blissful neighborhood,
A notice faintly understood,
"I see the end, and know the good."

A little hint to solace woe,

A hint, a whisper breathing low,
"I may not speak of what I know."

Like an Æolian harp that wakes
No certain air, but overtakes
Far thought with music that it makes:

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
From out my sullen heart a power
Broke, like the rainbow from the shower,

To feel, altho' no tongue can prove,
That every cloud, that spreads above
And veileth love, itself is love.

And forth into the fields I went,
And Nature's living motion lent
The pulse of hope to discontent.

I wonder'd at the bounteous hours,

The slow result of winter showers:
You scarce could see the grass for flowers.

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