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I LOVED thee once, when every thought of mine
Was hope and joy,--and now I love thee still,
In sorrow and despair :-a hopeless will
From its lone purpose never can decline.
I did not choose thee for
By the blind omen of a merry season,
'Twas not thy smile that brib'd my partial reason,
Tho' never maiden's smile was good as thine:
Nor did I to thy goodness wed my heart,
Dreaming of soft delights and honied kisses,
Although thou wert complete in every part,
A stainless paradise of holy blisses :
I lov'd thee for the lovely soul thou art,-
Thou canst not change so true a love as this is.
Is love a fancy, or a feeling ? No,
It is immortal as immaculate Truth.
'Tis not a blossom, shed as soon as youth
Drops from the stem of life—for it will grow
In barren regions, where no waters flow,
Nor ray of promise cheats the pensive gloom.
A darkling fire, faint hovering o'er a tomb,
That but itself and darkness nought doth shew,
Is my love's being, yet it cannot die,
Nor will it change, though all be chang'd beside ;
Tho' fairest beauty be no longer fair,
Tho' vows be false, and faith itself deny,
Tho'sharp enjoyment be a suicide,
And hope a spectre in a ruin bare.
Whither is gone the wisdom and the power
That ancient sages scatter'd with the notes
Of thought-suggesting lyres ? The music floats
In the void air ; e’en at this breathing hour,
In every cell and every blooming bower
The sweetness of old lays is hovering still :
But the strong soul, the self-constraining will,
The rugged root that bare the winsome flower
Is weak and wither'd. Were we like the Fays
That sweetly nestle in the fox-glove bells,
Or lurk and murmur in the rose-lipp'd shells
Which Neptune to the earth for quit-rent pays,
Then might our pretty modern Philomels
Sustain our spirits with their roundelays.
Long time a child, and still a child, when years
Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I;
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.
But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o'ertaking
The vanguard of my age, with all arrears
Of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey,
For I have lost the race I never ran,
A rathe December blights my lagging May;
And still I am a child, tho' I be old,
debtor for my years untold.
Youth, love, and mirth, what are they—but the portion,
Wherewith the Prodigal left his Father's home,
Through foreign lands in search of bliss to roam,
And find each seeming joy a mere abortion,
And every smile, an agonized distortion
Of pale Repentance face, and barren womb ?
Youth, love, and mirth! too quickly they consume
Their passive substance, and their small proportion
Of fleeting life, in memory's backward view,
Still dwindles to a point, a twinkling star,
Long gleaming o'er the onward course of Being ;
That tells us whence we came, and where we are,
And tells us too, how swiftly we are fleeing
From all we were and loved, when life was new.