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WHAT is the existence of man's life
But open war or slumber'd strife;
Where sickness to his sense presents
The combat of the elements,
And never feels a perfect peace
Till death's cold hand signs his release ?
It is a storm—where the hot blood
Outvies in rage the boiling flood;
And each loud passion of the mind
Is like a furious gust of wind,
Which beats the bark with many a wave,
Till he casts anchor in the grave.
It is a flower—which buds and grows,
And withers as the leaves disclose;
Whose spring and fall faint seasons keer, 15
Like fits of waking before sleep,
Then shrinks into that fatal mould
Where its first being was enroll’d.
It is a dream-whose seeming truth
Is moralized in
Where all the comforts he can share
As wandering as his fancies are;
Till in a mist of dark decay
The dreamer vanish quite away.
It is a dial—which points out
25 The sunset as it moves about; And shadows out in lines of night The subtle stages of Time's flight.
Till all-obscuring earth hath laid
His body in perpetual shade.
It is a weary interlude-
Which doth short joys, long woes, include:
The world the stage, the prologue tears ;
The acts vain hopes and varied fears :
The scene shuts up with loss of breath,
And leaves no epilogue but Death!
LOOK once more, ere we leave this specular mount,
Westward, much nearer by south-west, behold;
Where on the Ægean shore a city stands,
Built nobly, pure the air, and light the soil:
Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts
And eloquence, native to famous wits
Or hospitable, in her sweet recess,
City or suburban, studious walks and shades.
See there the olive grove of Academe,
Plato's retirement, where the Attic bird
10 Trills her thick-warbled notes the summer long; There flowery hill Hymettus, with the sound Of bees' industrious murmur, oft invites To studious musing; there Ilissus rolls His whispering stream: within the walls then view 15 The schools of ancient sages; his, who bred Great Alexander to subdue the world, Lyceum there, and painted Stoa next : There shalt thou hear and learn the secret power Of harmony, in tones and numbers hit
By voice or hand; and various-measured verse,
Æolian charms and Dorian lyric odes,
And his who gave them breath, but higher sung,
Blind Melesigenes, thence Homer call’d,
poem Phoebus challenged for his own : 25
Thence what the lofty grave tragedians taught
In Chorus or Iambic, teachers best
Of moral prudence, with delight received
In brief sententious precepts, while they treat
Of fate, and chance, and change in human life, 30
High actions and high passions best describing :
Thence to the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Wielded at will that fierce democratie,
Shook the arsenal, and fulmined over Greece 35
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.
RETURN, Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse,
And call the vales, and bid them hither cast
Their bells and flowerets of a thousand hues.
Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use 5
Of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
On whose fresh lap the swart star sparely looks ;
Throw hither all your quaint enamell’d eyes,
That on the
green turf suck the honied showers,
And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. 10
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,
The white pink, and the pansy freak’d with jet,
The glowing violet,
The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine, 15
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
And every flower that sad embroidery wears :
Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed,
And daffodillies fill their cups with tears,
To strew the laureate hearse where Lycid lies. 20
For, so to interpose a little ease,
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise :
Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas
Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurld,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
Where thou perhaps, under the whelming tide,
Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world;
Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied,
Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great vision of the guarded mount 30
Looks towards Namanco's and Bayona's hold;
Look homeward, angel, now, and melt with ruth:
And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.
Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more, For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,
35 Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor; So sinks the day-star in the ocean-bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
40 So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high, Through the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves, Where, other
and other streams along, With nectar pure
locks he laves, And hears the unexpressive nuptial song
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet societies,
That sing, and, singing, in their glory more,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Go, lovely rose!
Tell her, that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Then die ! that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee:
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.