This Duty, known and done, which all men praise,
Is it a thing for heroes utterly?
Or claims it aught, O Man! from thee and me,
Amid the sweat and grime of working days?
Stand forth, thou Conqueror, before God’s throne,
Thou ruler, thou Earth-leader, great and strong,
Behold thy work, thy doing, labour’d long,
Before that mighty Presence little grown.
Stand forth, thou Man, low toiling ’mid the lees,
That measurest Duty out in poor degrees;
Are not all deeds, beside the deeds of Heaven,
But as the sands upon the ocean shore,
Which, softly breath’d on by God’s winds, are driven
Into dim deserts, thenceforth seen no more!
Then make thou Life heroic, O! thou Man,
Though not in Earth’s eyes, still in Heaven’s, which see
Each task accomplish’d not in poor degree,
But as fain workings out of Duty’s plan,—
The hewers and the drawers of the land,
No whit behind the mighty and the great,
Bearing unmoved the burden of the State,—
Alike each duty challenged at man’s hand.
Life is built up of smallest atomics,
Pile upon pile the ramparts still increase,
And as those, Roman walls, o’er which in scorn
The scoffer leapt, soon held the world at bay,
So shall thy deeds of duty, lowly born,
Be thy strong tower and glory ere the set of day.
Far, far away, over land and sea,
When Winter comes with his cold, cold breath,
And chills the flowers to the sleep of death,
Far, far away over land and sea,
Like a band of spirits the Passage-birds flee.
Round the old grey spire in the evening calm,
No more they circle in sportive glee,
Hearing the hum of the vesper psalm,
And the swell of the organ so far below;
But far, far away, over land and sea,
In the still mid-air the swift Passage-birds go.
Over the earth that is scarcely seen
Through the curtain of vapour that waves between,
O’er city and hamlet, o’er hill and plain,
O’er forest green, and o’er mountain hoar,
They flit like shadows, and pass the shore,
And wing their way o’er the pathless main.
There is no rest for the weary wing,
No quivering bough where the feet can cling;
To the North, to the South, to the East, to the West,
The ocean lies with its heaving breast,
Within it, without it there is no rest.
The tempest gathers beneath them far,
The Wind-god rides on his battle-car,
And the roar of the thunder, the lightning-flash,
Break on the waves with a sullen crash;
But Silence reigns where the Passage-birds fly,
And o’er them stretches the clear blue sky.