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744                                                   Stanza

OFTEN rebuked, yet always back returning
   To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
   For idle dreams of things which cannot be:
To-day I will seek not the shadowy region;
   Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
   Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
I’ll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
   And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguish’d faces,
   The clouded forms of long-past history.
I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading:
   It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding,
   Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.

745                                             The Prisoner

STILL let my tyrants know, I am not doom’d to wear
Year after year in gloom and desolate despair;
A messenger of Hope comes every night to me,
And offers for short life, eternal liberty.
He comes with Western winds, with evening’s wandering airs,
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars:
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire,
And visions rise, and change, that kill me with desire.
Desire for nothing known in my maturer years,
When Joy grew mad with awe, at counting future tears:
When, if my spirit’s sky was full of flashes warm,
I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunder-storm.
But first, a hush of peace—a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends.
Mute music soothes my breast—unutter’d harmony
That I could never dream, till Earth was lost to me.
Then dawns the Invisible; the Unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels;
Its wings are almost free—its home, its harbour found,
Measuring the gulf, it stoops, and dares the final bound.
O dreadful is the check—intense the agony—
When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see;
When the pulse begins to throb—the brain to think again—
The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.
Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less;
The more that anguish racks, the earlier it will bless;
And robed in fires of hell, or bright with heavenly shine,
If it but herald Death, the vision is divine.

746                                              The Old Stoic

RICHES I hold in light esteem,
   And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream
   That vanish’d with the morn:
And, if I pray, the only prayer
   That moves my lips for me
Is, ‘Leave the heart that now I bear,
   And give me liberty’!
Yea, as my swift days near their goal,
   ’Tis all that I implore:
In life and death a chainless soul,
   With courage to endure.

747                                               Last Lines

   NO coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere!
   I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
   O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
   Life—that in me has rest,
As I—undying Life—have power in Thee!
   Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain:
   Worthless as wither’d weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
   To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine Infinity;
   So surely anchor’d on
The steadfast rock of immortality.
   With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
   Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
   Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
   And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

   There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
   Thou—Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.


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