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Ah me! of them from whom the good have hope,
Of them whom Virtue for her liegemen claims
How many the world tames,
That with its evil they quite cease to cope,
And their first fealty sworn to beauty and truth
Break early; and amid their sinful youth
Make shipwreak of all high and glorious aims.
How few the fierce and fiery trial stand,
To be as weapons tempered and approved
For an Almighty hand;
How few of all the streamlets that were moved,
Do ever unto clearness run again;
And therefore is it marvellous to us,
When of these weapons one is broken thus,
When of these fountains one would seem in vain
Renewed in clearness, and is staunched before
It has had leave to spread fresh streams the desert o'er.


Ah me! that by so frail and slight a thread
Our life is holden--that not life alone,
But all that life has won
May in one hour be gathered to the dead;
The slow additions that build up the mind,
The skill that through temptation we have bought
And suffering, and whatever has been taught
By lengthened years and converse with our kind,
That all may cease together; and the tree
Reared to its height by many a slow degree,
And by the dews, the sunshine, and the showers
Of many springs, an instant may lay low,
With all its living towers,
And all the fruit mature of growth and slow,
Which on the trees of wisdom leisurely must grow
Alas! it is another thing to wail,
That when the foremost runners sink and fail,
They cannot pass their torch or forward place
To them that are behind them in the race;
But their extinguished torches must be laid
Together with them in the dust of death:
That when the wise and the true-hearted fade,
So little of themselves they can bequeath
To us, who yet are in the race of life,
For travail and for toil, for weariness and strife.


--But from behind the veil,
Where they are entered who have gone before,
A solemn voice arrests my feeble wail--
And has the life such worthier aims, O man,
That thou shouldst grudge to give its little span
To truth and knowledge, and faith's holy lore,
Because the places for the exercise
Of these may be withdrawn from mortal eyes?
Win truth, win goodness--for which man was made,
And fear not thou of these to be bereft,
Fear not that these shall in the dust be laid,
Or in corruption left,
Or be the grave-worm's food.
Nothing is left or lost, nothing of good
Or lovely; but whatever its first springs
Has drawn from God, returns to Him again;
That only which 'twere misery to retain
Is taken from you, which to keep were loss;
Only the scum, the refuse, and the dross
Are borne away unto the grave of things;
Meanwhile whatever gifts from heaven descend,
Thither again have flowed,
To the receptacle of all things good,
From whom they come, and unto whom they tend,
Who is the First and Last, the Author and the End.
Nor dare to sorrow with increase of grief,
When they who go before
Go furnished; or because their span was brief,
When in the acquist of what is life's true gage,
Truth, knowledge, and that other worthiest lore,
They had fulfilled already a long age.
For doubt not but that in the worlds above
There must be other offices of love,
That other tasks and ministries there are,
Since it is promised that his servants, there
Shall serve Him still. Therefore be strong, be strong,
Ye that remain, nor fruitlessly revolve,
Darkling, the riddles which ye cannot solve,
But do the works that unto you belong;
Believing that for every mystery,
For all the death, the darkness, and the curse
Of this dim universe,
Needs a solution full of love must be:
And that the way whereby ye may attain
Nearest to this, is not through broodings vain,
And half-rebellious questionings of God,
But by a patient seeking to fulfil
The purpose of his everlasting will,
Treading the path which lowly men have trod;
Since it is ever they who are too proud
For this, that are the foremost and most loud
To judge his hidden judgments, these are still
The most perplexed and lost at his mysterious will.