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What is life? is it an hour
Of vain and idle dreaming?
Is this world a solemn real,
Or a transient seeming?
Is our destiny a thing
With which we here may trifle?
Or a deep and meaning charge,
Teeming with the awful?


What is life? a widening stream
Adown which we are floating;
But, is it no matter where
Our strange journey's leading?
Every day a wave that bears
Our frail life-boat farther;
Dare we, then, sweep heedless on,
Never asking whither?


Is life naught, when every act
Is a thing undying?
And our thoughts, swift winged as light;
Through the world are flying?
E'en our heart's low, measured beat,
Sets some other throbbing,
And the tear drops we let fall,
Wake an echoed sobbing.


We're not writing on the sand,
By the shifting waters,
But upon the fadeless scroll
Of the hearts of others.
Angels from the "other shore,"
Wonder much that mortals
Sport where falls the shadow
Of eternity's dim portals.


Life's an anthem, and its strains
Through three worlds are stealing,
And along the arch of each,
Every note is pealing.
Death will speak the amen here,
But beyond the river,
Shall the ceaseless anthem tell,
Joy or woe forever.