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Life (4)
#1
Life
Suggested by Cole’s four paintings
representing the voyage of life



Childhood

Thou poet-painter, preacher of great truth,
Far more suggestive thine than written tome –
Lo, we return with thee to that vast dome,
Dim cavern of the past. Visions uncouth,

Vague, rayless, all impalpable in sooth,
Send back the startled soul. The waters come
All tranquilly from that dim cavern forth,
The mystic tide of human life. A child,

Borne on its bosom, sports with blossoms wild.
A Presence, felt, but still unseen, the boat
With gentle hand guides onward, and beguiled

With music lost in other years, they float
Upon the stream. The hours unfelt, for life
Is joy in its first voyage, with light and blossoms rife.


Youth

Alas, the Spirit lingers, but its hand
No more the barque sustains. The daring youth
Has seized the helm, and deeper launches forth,
His eye amid illusions of ideal land –

Bright castles built in air, that seem to stand,
Though still receding – while from rosy bowers
Each laurel-crowned appears, Fame, Glory, Worth.
He sports no more mid blossoms of green earth;

He hears no more the music of his birth;
The future lures him, pinnacles and towers,
And half he chides the lagging of the hours,

Unheeds their sunshine, blessedness, and mirth;
For onward is his course, he asks not where,
Since fancy paints the prospect passing fair.


Manhood

Still onward goes the barque – the tide
Bears it along where breakers foam and roar,
And oaks unbending, riven, line the shore;
Dense vapors rising, all the future hide;

And how shall he that fearful peril bide?
The guilding helm he eager grasps no more;
Time weighs the prow, the wave is deep beside;
Swift flows the current, fierce the gathering strife,

The struggle and the buffetings of life.
Half he recoils, yet calmly bides the test,
With hands clasped firmly on the unconquered breast;

Nor meets alone that hour with peril rife;
Forth from on high the guardian Spirit bends
With ministry of love, and holy valor sends.


Old Age

Thy mission is accomplished – painter – sage,
Look to thy crown of glory – for thy brow
Is circled with its radiant halo now.
No more earth’s turmoil will thy soul engage,

Its hopes unquiet, littleness, or rage.
With thine own voyager thou hast heard the sound
Of that vast ocean, waveless, rayless, dread,
Where time’s perpetual tribute, circling round,

Drops silent in, all passionless and dead.
When thine own voyage is o’er, and thou shalt near
The eternal wave, thus, thus above thy head

May opening glories shield thy heart from fear;
A child again, but strong in faith and prayer,
Thou shalt look meekly up-behold thy God is there!
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