The pang of age compared with youth,
Or hunger with the spendthrift’s wealth,
Gnaws not with such a cruel tooth
As that of pain confronting health.
Yet must the strong ship breast the wave,
The wreck lie rotting on the shore;
O hopes that perish in the grave!
O youthful dreams that come no more!
Had I but lived when music-loving Pan
Still played his flute amid the whispering reeds,
When through Arcadian groves the dryads ran,
And—symbolizing well man’s earlier creeds—
A host of sculptured forms, divinely fair,
Portrayed the gods, and led men’s thoughts to prayer,
I would have sought some beautiful retreat,
Remote from cities and the din of men,—
Some tranquil shore where lake and forest meet
By limpid stream or flower-lit, sylvan glen,
And would have reared, where none could e’er intrude,
A shrine to thee, O precious Solitude!
How hath a heedless world neglected thee,
Thou coy divinity, too shy and proud
To sue for followers from those who see
Attraction merely in the strenuous crowd!
For only those can know thee, as thou art,
Who wisely seek and study thee ... apart.
No rapt enthusiast, or mystic sage,
No Asian founder of a faith divine,
No bard, or writer of inspired page
Hath ever failed to worship at thy shrine,
O Nourisher of steadfast self-control,
Of noble thoughts, of loftiness of soul!
Yet no continuous homage dost thou crave,
No anchorite’s seclusion wouldst thou ask,
Thou lov’st no misanthrope or sullen slave,
But only those who, faithful to life’s task,
Must yet at times look upward from the clod,
And seek through thee acquaintanceship with God.
From the bitter fight I have made my way
To the peaceful crest of a lonely hill,
But the noise and heat of the deadly fray
And the smart of wounds are with me still.
No recreant I to a noble cause,
Nor traitor base to a leader bold;
’Twas a fight where he won most applause
Who captured most of his neighbor’s gold;
Where the wounded crawled away to die,
Or, hopeless, ate their bread with tears,
And the only cries that rent the sky
Were the shouts of frenzied financiers.
Alas for the prematurely gray,
Who struggle there through joyless lives
To win the means of more display
For thankless children, thoughtless wives!
Alas for those whose spirits yearn
For leisure, books, and sunlit fields,
Who yet can never pause to learn
The joy that a life of culture yields!
Still sway the mad crowds to and fro!
I hear their groans and panting breath,
The hideous impacts, blow on blow,
The moans of those who are crushed to death!