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Love is but folly,—since the wisest love,
Itself disclaiming, would invent a use
For its free motion.—Penitents recluse,
That scarce allow the natural heart to move,
With amorous ditties woo the mystic dove,
Or fondly bid their heavenly spouse unloose
Their sacred zones.—The politic excuse
Of worldlings would to worldly ends improve
The gentle madness.—Courtiers glibly preach
How Love and Woman best rehearse the play
That statesmen act. The grave fine-spoken leech
Counts how the beatings of the pulse betray
The sweet disease. And all the poets teach
That love alone can build the lofty lay.
Youth, thou art fled, but where are all the charms
Which, tho’ with thee they came, and pass'd with thee,
Should leave a perfume and sweet memory
Of what they have been ?-All thy boons and harms
Have perish'd quite.— Thy oft renew'd alarms
Forsake the fluttering echo.—Smiles and tears
Die on my cheek, or, petrified with years,
Shew the dull woe which no compassion warms,
The mirth none shares. Yet could a wish, a thought,
Unravel all the complex web of age,-
Could all the characters that Time hath wrought
Be clean effaced from my memorial page
By one short word, the word I would not say,
I thank my God, because my hairs are grey.
I thank my God because my hairs are grey!
But have grey hairs brought wisdom? Doth the flight
Of summer birds, departed while the light
Of life is lingering on the middle way,
Predict the harvest nearer by a day?
Will the rank weeds of hopeless appetite
Droop at the glance and venom of the blight
That made the vermeil bloom, the flush so gay,
Dim and unlovely as a dead worm's shroud ?
Or is my heart, that, wanting hope, has lost
The strength and rudder of resolve, at peace ?
Is it no longer wrathful, vain, and proud ?
Is it a Sabbath, or untimely frost,
That makes the labour of the soul to cease ?
It must be so,-my infant love must find
In my own breast a cradle and a grave ;
Like a rich jewel hid beneath the wave,
Or rebel spirit bound within the rind
Of some old wreathed oak, or fast enshrined
In the cold durance of an echoing cave :-
Yea, better thus than cold disdain to brave :-
Or worse,—to taint the quiet of that mind,
That decks its temple with unearthly grace.
Together must we dwell, my dream and I,
Unknown must live, and unlamented die,
Rather than soil the lustre of that face,
Or drive that laughing dimple from its place,
Or heave that white breast with a painful sigh.
WRITTEN IN LEEDS, JULY, 1832.
I left the land where men with nature dwelling,
Know not how much they love her lovely forms—
Nor heed the history of forgotten storms,
On the blank folds inscribed of drear Helvellyn;
I sought the town, where toiling, buying, selling-
Getting and spending, poising hope and fear,
Make but one season of the live-long year-
Now for the brook from moss-girt fountain welling,
I see the foul stream hot with sleepless trade,
For the slow creeping vapours of the morn,
Black hurrying smoke in opake mass up-borne,
O’er dinning engines hangs, a stifling shade-
Yet nature lives e’en here, and will not part
From her best home, the lowly-loving heart.