Normale Version: LIFE AND DEATH. (8)
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O SOLEMN portal, veiled in mist and cloud,
Where all who have lived throng in, an endless line,
Forbid to tell by backward look or sign
What destiny awaits the advancing crowd;
Bourne crossed but once with no return allowed;
Dumb, spectral gate, terrestrial yet divine,
Beyond whose arch all powers and fates combine,
Pledged to divulge no secrets of the shroud.
Close, close behind we step, and strive to catch
Some whisper in the dark, some glimmering light;
Through circling whirls of thought intent to snatch
A drifting hope — a faith that grows to sight;
And yet assured, whatever may befall,
That must be somehow best that comes to all.


OR endless sleep 't will be, — and that is rest,
Freedom forever from life's weary cares —
Or else a life beyond the climbing stairs
And dizzy pinnacles of thought expressed
In symbols such as in our mortal breast
Are framed by time and space; — life that upbears
The soul by a law untried amid these snares
Of sense that make it a too willing guest.
So sleep or waking were a boon divine.
Yet why this inextinguishable thirst,
This hope, this faith that to existence cling?
Nay e'en the poor dark chrysalis some fine
Ethereal creature prisons, till it burst
Into the unknown, air on golden wing.


IF death be final, what is life, with all
Its lavish promises, its thwarted aims,
Its lost ideals, its dishonored claims,
Its uncompleted growth? A prison wall,
Whose heartless stones but echo back our call;
An epitaph recording but our names;
A puppet-stage where joys and griefs and shames
Furnish a demon jester's carnival;
A plan without a purpose or a form;
A footless temple; an unfinished tale.
And men like madrepores through calm and storm
Toil, die to build a branch of fossil frail,
And add from all their dreams, thoughts, acts, belief,
A few more inches to a coral-reef.


IF at one door stands life to cheat our trust,
And at another, death, to mock because
We thought life's promise good; if all that was
And is and should be ends in fume and dust —
Then let us live for joy alone — the rust
Of ease encase our minds — the grader laws
Of souls be set aside. Let no man pause
To weigh between his virtue and his lust.
From first to last life baffles all our hopes
Of aught but present bliss. Death waits to mock
Our haste to indorse a visionary bond.
Let pleasure dance us down earth's sunny slopes,
And crown our heads with roses, ere the shock
Of thunder falls. There is no life beyond?


YET in all facts of sense life stands revealed;
And from a thousand symbols hope may take
Its charter to escape the Stygian lake,
And find existence in an ampler field.
The streams by winter's icy breath congealed
Flow when the voices of the spring awake.
The electric current lives when tempests break
The wires. The chemic energies unsealed
By sudden change, in other forms survive.
The senses cheat us where the mind corrects
Their partial verdict. More than all, the heart —
The heart cold science counts not, is alive —
Of the undivided soul that vital part
Her microscopic eye in vain dissects.


So, heralded by Reason, Faith may tread
The darkened vale, the dolorous paths of night,
In the great thought secure that life and light
Flow from the Soul of all, who, with the dead
As with the living, is the fountain-head.
And though our loved and lost are snatched from sight,
Some unseen power will guide them in their flight,
And to some unknown home their steps are led.
Yet has no seer, by sacred visions fired,
Disclosed their state to those they leave behind;
No holy prophet, saint or sage inspired —
Save in the magic lantern of the mind —
Seen in ecstatic trance those realms desired:
And all the oracles are dumb and blind.


THE wish behind the thought is the soul's star
Of faith, and out of earth we build our heaven.
Life to each unschooled child of time has given
A fairy wand with which he thinks to unbar
The dark gate to a region vast and far,
Where all is gained at length for which he has striven —
All loss requited — all offences shriven —
All toil o'erpassed — effaced each battle-scar.
But ah! what heaven of rest could countervail
The ever widening thought — the endless stress
Of action whereinto the heart is born?
What sphere so blessèd it could overbless
With sweets the soul, when all such gifts must fail,
If from its chosen work that soul were torn?


NOT for a rapture unalloyed I ask.
Not for a recompense for all I miss.
A banquet of the gods in heavenly bliss,
A realm in whose warm sunshine I may bask,
Life without discipline or earnest task
Could ill repay the unfinished work of this.
Nay — e'en to clasp some long-lost Beatrice
In bowers of paradise — the mortal mask
Dropped from her face now glorified and bright.
But I would fain take up what here I left
All crude and incomplete; would toil and strive
To regain the power of which I am bereft
By slow decay and death, with fuller light
To aid the larger life that may survive.