Paramount precept of the Stoic’s age,
Noblest of mottoes for the lofty soul,—
Would thou wert writ in characters of light,
At every turn to greet my reverent gaze,
And bid me face life’s evils, calm, upright,
Unspoiled alike by calumny or praise!
With all our science we are slaves of Fate;
What is to come we know not, cannot know;
Grief, suffering, death,—all touch us soon or late,
The master question, how to meet the blow.
Grant me, ye Gods, through life a steadfast eye,
And then, with equanimity, to die!
I woke from dreams of rare delight
And visions of a joyous land,
Where loved ones, long since lost to sight,
Walked blithely with me, hand in hand:
Where every brow was free from care,
And Youth’s sublime ideals shone
Like planets in an Alpine air,
And death’s sad mystery was known.
I woke,—and like a bird that waits,
Uncertain where to wend its flight,
My spirit lingered at the gates,
Which close upon that realm of light;
Till, slowly, all around grew clear,
And once again the light of day
Convinced me that I still was here,
Though all my dreams had passed away.
Once more I faced a world of Pain!
Of quivering nerves and sure decay,
Of helpless brutes, by millions, slain
To feed mankind a single day!
Of shivering children, scarred with blows,
Of hunted bird and tortured beast,
Of War, whose hideous programme shows
Its means of homicide increased.
The same old world of greed and hate,
Of selfish act and paltry aim,
Of private fraud and venal State,
Of deeds and doers steeped in shame!
What marvel if the spirit shrinks
From plunging in that turbid stream?
Or if, on waking thus, one thinks
That life was better in his dream?
Sweet, peaceful dreamland! I await
The favored hour, to pass again
Within thine asphodelian gate,
Beyond the miseries of men;
To find old pleasures, long since gone,
Perchance as vivid as of yore,
Or else to sleep,—life’s curtains drawn,—
And reawaken ... nevermore.
O sovereign Rome, still mistress of the heart,
As of the world in thy majestic prime,
Grand in thy ruins, peerless in thine art,
Rich in the memories of a past sublime,
Is thine the fault or mine that thou art changed,
And that I tread the new Tiberian shore
Convinced, alas! that we are now estranged,
And that for me thy charm exists no more?
I have grown older, but am not blase,
My hair has whitened, but my heart is young,
Still thrills my pulse the tomb-girt Appian Way,
Still stirs my soul the ancient Latin tongue.