We speak with the lip, and we dream in the soul,
Of some better and fairer day;
And our days, the meanwhile, to that golden goal
Are gliding and sliding away.
Now the world becomes old, now again it is young,
But "The better" 's forever the word on the tongue.
At the threshold of life hope leads us in—
Hope plays round the mirthful boy;
Though the best of its charms may with youth begin,
Yet for age it reserves its toy.
A SPIRIT VOICE.
Whither was it that my spirit wended
When from thee my fleeting shadow moved?
Is not now each earthly conflict ended?
Say,—have I not lived,—have I not loved?
Art thou for the nightingales inquiring
Who entranced thee in the early year
With their melody so joy-inspiring?
Only whilst they loved they lingered here.
Is the lost one lost to me forever?
Trust me, with him joyfully I stray
There, where naught united souls can sever,
And where every tear is wiped away.
And thou, too, wilt find us in yon heaven,
When thy love with our love can compare;
There my father dwells, his sins forgiven,—
Murder foul can never reach him there.
And he feels that him no vision cheated
When he gazed upon the stars on high;
For as each one metes, to him 'tis meted;
Who believes it, hath the Holy nigh.
Faith is kept in those blest regions yonder
With the feelings true that ne'er decay.
Venture thou to dream, then, and to wander
Noblest thoughts oft lie in childlike play.
THE WORDS OF BELIEF.
Three words will I name thee—around and about,
From the lip to the lip, full of meaning, they flee;
But they had not their birth in the being without,
And the heart, not the lip, must their oracle be!
And all worth in the man shall forever be o'er
When in those three words he believes no more.
Man is made free!—Man by birthright is free,
Though the tyrant may deem him but born for his tool.
Whatever the shout of the rabble may be—
Whatever the ranting misuse of the fool—
Still fear not the slave, when he breaks from his chain,
For the man made a freeman grows safe in his gain.
And virtue is more than a shade or a sound,
And man may her voice, in this being, obey;
And though ever he slip on the stony ground,
Yet ever again to the godlike way,
To the science of good though the wise may be blind,
Yet the practice is plain to the childlike mind.
And a God there is!—over space, over time,
While the human will rocks, like a reed, to and fro,
Lives the will of the holy—a purpose sublime,
A thought woven over creation below;
Changing and shifting the all we inherit,
But changeless through all one immutable spirit
Hold fast the three words of belief—though about
From the lip to the lip, full of meaning, they flee;
Yet they take not their birth from the being without—
But a voice from within must their oracle be;
And never all worth in the man can be o'er,
Till in those three words he believes no more.
THE WORDS OF ERROR.
Three errors there are, that forever are found
On the lips of the good, on the lips of the best;
But empty their meaning and hollow their sound—
And slight is the comfort they bring to the breast.
The fruits of existence escape from the clasp
Of the seeker who strives but those shadows to grasp—
So long as man dreams of some age in this life
When the right and the good will all evil subdue;
For the right and the good lead us ever to strife,
And wherever they lead us the fiend will pursue.
And (till from the earth borne, and stifled at length)
The earth that he touches still gifts him with strength!
So long as man fancies that fortune will live,
Like a bride with her lover, united with worth;
For her favors, alas! to the mean she will give—
And virtue possesses no title to earth!
That foreigner wanders to regions afar,
Where the lands of her birthright immortally are!
So long as man dreams that, to mortals a gift,
The truth in her fulness of splendor will shine;
The veil of the goddess no earth-born may lift,
And all we can learn is—to guess and divine!
Dost thou seek, in a dogma, to prison her form?
The spirit flies forth on the wings of the storm!
O, noble soul! fly from delusions like these,
More heavenly belief be it thine to adore;
Where the ear never hearkens, the eye never sees,
Meet the rivers of beauty and truth evermore!
Not without thee the streams—there the dull seek them;—No!
Look within thee—behold both the fount and the flow!
THE POWER OF WOMAN.
Mighty art thou, because of the peaceful charms of thy presence;
That which the silent does not, never the boastful can do.
Vigor in man I expect, the law in its honors maintaining,
But, through the graces alone, woman e'er rules or should rule.
Many, indeed, have ruled through the might of the spirit and action,
But then thou noblest of crowns, they were deficient in thee.
No real queen exists but the womanly beauty of woman;
Where it appears, it must rule; ruling because it appears!
THE TWO PATHS OF VIRTUE.
Two are the pathways by which mankind can to virtue mount upward;
If thou should find the one barred, open the other will lie.
'Tis by exertion the happy obtain her, the suffering by patience.
Blest is the man whose kind fate guides him along upon both!
I, too, at length discerned great Hercules' energy mighty,—
Saw his shade. He himself was not, alas, to be seen.
Round him were heard, like the screaming of birds,
the screams of tragedians,
And, with the baying of dogs, barked dramaturgists around.
There stood the giant in all his terrors; his bow was extended,
And the bolt, fixed on the string, steadily aimed at the heart.
"What still hardier action, unhappy one, dost thou now venture,
Thus to descend to the grave of the departed souls here?"—
"'Tis to see Tiresias I come, to ask of the prophet
Where I the buskin of old, that now has vanished, may find?"
"If they believe not in Nature, nor the old Grecian, but vainly
Wilt thou convey up from hence that dramaturgy to them."
"Oh, as for Nature, once more to tread our stage she has ventured,
Ay, and stark-naked beside, so that each rib we count."
"What? Is the buskin of old to be seen in truth on your stage, then,
Which even I came to fetch, out of mid-Tartarus' gloom?"—
"There is now no more of that tragic bustle, for scarcely
Once in a year on the boards moves thy great soul, harness-clad."
"Doubtless 'tis well! Philosophy now has refined your sensations,
And from the humor so bright fly the affections so black."—
"Ay, there is nothing that beats a jest that is stolid and barren,
But then e'en sorrow can please, if 'tis sufficiently moist."
"But do ye also exhibit the graceful dance of Thalia,
Joined to the solemn step with which Melpomene moves?"—
"Neither! For naught we love but what is Christian and moral;
And what is popular, too, homely, domestic, and plain."
"What? Does no Caesar, does no Achilles, appear on your stage now,
Not an Andromache e'en, not an Orestes, my friend?"
"No! there is naught to be seen there but parsons,
and syndics of commerce,
Secretaries perchance, ensigns, and majors of horse."
"But, my good friend, pray tell me, what can such people e'er meet with
That can be truly called great?—what that is great can they do?"
"What? Why they form cabals, they lend upon mortgage, they pocket
Silver spoons, and fear not e'en in the stocks to be placed."
"Whence do ye, then, derive the destiny, great and gigantic,
Which raises man up on high, e'en when it grinds him to dust?"—
"All mere nonsense! Ourselves, our worthy acquaintances also,
And our sorrows and wants, seek we, and find we, too, here."
"But all this ye possess at home both apter and better,—
Wherefore, then, fly from yourselves, if 'tis yourselves that ye seek?"
"Be not offended, great hero, for that is a different question;
Ever is destiny blind,—ever is righteous the bard."
"Then one meets on your stage your own contemptible nature,
While 'tis in vain one seeks there nature enduring and great?"
"There the poet is host, and act the fifth is the reckoning;
And, when crime becomes sick, virtue sits down to the feast!"
THE POETRY OF LIFE.
"Who would himself with shadows entertain,
Or gild his life with lights that shine in vain,
Or nurse false hopes that do but cheat the true?—
Though with my dream my heaven should be resigned—
Though the free-pinioned soul that once could dwell
In the large empire of the possible,
This workday life with iron chains may bind,
Yet thus the mastery o'er ourselves we find,
And solemn duty to our acts decreed,
Meets us thus tutored in the hour of need,
With a more sober and submissive mind!
How front necessity—yet bid thy youth
Shun the mild rule of life's calm sovereign, truth."
So speakest thou, friend, how stronger far than I;
As from experience—that sure port serene—
Thou lookest;—and straight, a coldness wraps the sky,
The summer glory withers from the scene,
Scared by the solemn spell; behold them fly,
The godlike images that seemed so fair!
Silent the playful Muse—the rosy hours
Halt in their dance; and the May-breathing flowers
Fall from the sister-graces' waving hair.
Sweet-mouthed Apollo breaks his golden lyre,
Hermes, the wand with many a marvel rife;—
The veil, rose-woven, by the young desire
With dreams, drops from the hueless cheeks of life.
The world seems what it is—a grave! and love
Casts down the bondage wound his eyes above,
And sees!—He sees but images of clay
Where he dreamed gods; and sighs—and glides away.
The youngness of the beautiful grows old,
And on thy lips the bride's sweet kiss seems cold;
And in the crowd of joys—upon thy throne
Thou sittest in state, and hardenest into stone.
THE IDEAL OF WOMAN.
Woman in everything yields to man; but in that which is highest,
Even the manliest man yields to the woman most weak.
But that highest,—what is it? The gentle radiance of triumph
As in thy brow upon me, beauteous Amanda, it beams.
When o'er the bright shining disk the clouds of affliction are fleeting,
Fairer the image appears, seen through the vapor of gold.
Man may think himself free! thou art so,—for thou never knowest
What is the meaning of choice,—know'st not necessity's name.
That which thou givest, thou always givest wholly; but one art thou ever,
Even thy tenderest sound is thine harmonious self.
Youth everlasting dwells here, with fulness that never is exhausted,
And with the flower at once pluckest thou the ripe golden fruit.