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And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power ;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.
Only—but this is rare-
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress’d-
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would,
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the
And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.?
What was before us we know not,
And we know not what shall succeed.
Haply, the river of Time-
As it grows, as the towns on its marge
Fling their wavering lights
On a wider, statelier stream-
May acquire, if not the calm
Of its early mountainous shore,
Yet a solemn peace of its own.
And the width of the waters, the hush
Of the grey expanse where he floats,
Freshening its current and spotted with foam
As it draws to the Ocean, may strike
Peace to the soul of the man on its breast-
As the pale waste widens around him,
As the banks fade dimmer away,
As the stars come out, and the night-wind
Brings up the stream
Murmurs and scents of the infinite sea.2
Ye heavens, whose pure dark regions have no sign
Of languor, though so calm, and, though so great,
Are yet untroubled and unpassionate;
Who, though so noble, share in the world's toil,
And, though so task'd, keep free from dust and soil!
I will not say that your mild deeps retain
A tinge, it may be, of their silent pain
Who have long'd deeply once, and long'd in vain1 From "The Buried Life.”
2 From “ The Future.”
But I will rather say that
A world above man's head, to let him see
How boundless might his soul's horizons be,
How vast, yet of what clear transparency !
How it were good to abide there, and breathe free;
How fair a lot to fill
Is left to each man still !1
What mortal, when he saw,
Life's voyage done, his heavenly Friend,
Could ever yet dare tell him fearlessly :
“I have kept uninfringed my nature's law;
The inly-written chart thou gavest me,
To guide me, I have steer'd by to the end”?
Ah ! let us make no claim,
On life's incognisable sea,
To too exact a steering of our way;
Let us not fret and fear to miss our aim,
If some fair coast have lured us to make stay,
Or some friend hail'd us to keep company.
Ay! we would each fain drive
At random, and not steer by rule.
Weakness! and worse, weakness bestow'd in vain
Winds from our side the unsuiting consort rive,
We rush by coasts where we had lief remain;
Man cannot, though he would, live chance's fool.
No! as the foaming swath
Of torn-up water, on the main,
Falls heavily away with long-drawn roar
1 From "A Summer Night.”
On either side the black deep-furrow'd path
Cut by an onward-labouring vessel's
And never touches the ship-side again ;
Even so we leave behind,
As, charter'd by some unknown Powers,
We stem across the sea of life by night,
The joys which were not for our use design d ;-
The friends to whom we had no natural right,
The homes that were not destined to be ours.1
Foild by our fellow-men, depress’d, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And, Patience! in another life, we say,
The world shall be thrust down, and we up-borne.
And will not, then, the immortal armies scorn
The world's poor, routed leavings ? or will they,
Who fail'd under the heat of this life's day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn?
No, no! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;
And he who flagg'd not in the earthly strife,
From strength to strength advancing—only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.2
Long fed on boundless hopes, O race of man,
How angrily thou spurn'st all simpler fare!
“ Christ,” some one says,
human as we are ; No judge eyes us from Heaven, our sin to scan; “We live no more, when we have done our span.”
“ Well, then, for Christ," thou answerest,“ who can
From sin, which Heaven records not, why forbear?
Live we like brutes our life without a plan!"
So answerest thou; but why not rather say:
“Hath man no second life ?—Pitch this one high!
Sits there no judge in Heaven, our sin to see ?—
“ More strictly, then, the inward judge obey!
Was Christ a man like us ? Ah! let us try
If we then, too, can be such men as he !”1
Whether one lives long or not, to be less and less personal in one's desires and workings is the great matter, and this too I feel, I am glad to say, more deeply than I did, but for progress in the direction of the seeketh not her own" there is always room, up to the very end, or, at least, near it.2
And so this loss comes to me just after my fortyfifth birthday ... to remind me that the time past of our life may suffice us !-words which have haunted me for the last year or two, and that we “should no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." However different the interpretation we put on much of the facts and history of Christianity, we may unite in the bond of this call, which is true for all of us, and for me, above all, how full of meaning and warning: 3
1 - The Better Part.”
2 From letter to his mother, December 27, 1866.
3 From letter to Mrs. Forster, January 4, 1868.