But why should we feel distress
If the jar be far from filled?
Though its contents may be less,
Yet its essence is distilled,
And the best wine always clears
With the passing of the years.
Fermentation is for youth,
But serenity for age;
For a knowledge of the truth
Men have always sought the Sage,
And though youth may live with zest,
’Tis in age that one lives best.
Youth dreams of all the years shall hold,—
Of poems writ, of battles won,
Of statues made, of love, of gold,
And honors, added one by one;
How sweet the song of Hope, if sung,
When life is young!
Man’s dreams are stern and few indeed;
His youthful aims he finds despised,
For in a world of strife and greed
Ideals must be sacrificed;
Alas, there is so little time
In manhood’s prime!
Age dreams of what the years have brought,—
The blots upon life’s tear-dimmed scroll,
The brave attempts that came to naught,
The unsolved problems of the soul;
How sadly is the tale retold,
When life is old!
Youth, Manhood, Age,—the fatal Three!
Illusion, Struggle, and Regret!
So hath it been, so shall it be,
And to what end? We know not yet;
Still sweeps the mighty life-flood on,
Now here, now gone!
Seed, bud, florescence, and decay
In nature, races, nations, men;—
Nay, Earth itself shall fail one day
To feed its freezing brood! What then?
Successive cycles, vast and small,—
Can these be all?
Do all these swirls of suns and souls,
Of spirit keen and senseless stone,
Speed on to no appointed goals,
Like sand along the desert blown,—
Forever born from out the void,
To be destroyed?—
Nay, Reason, shocked at anarchy,
Demands an author and an aim,
Seeks ever for the master-key
To solve the mystery,—Whence came
This starlit sea of Evermore,
Without a shore?
And whence comes Life,—that occult Force,
So rich in its prolific range,
So frail and swift to run its course,
Yet deathless in protean change?
Must we not hope that Death will clear
The darkness here?
Such hopes appear of little worth
When, peering through our planet’s bars,
We picture this, our tiny Earth,
Amid that wilderness of stars!
Yet in those sun-strewn depths of space
It hath its place.
Its rhythmic motion, tuned to time,
Its awful rush, yet sure return,
Make even our dim orb sublime,
And we at last the truth discern,—
With God is neither small nor great,
Nor soon, nor late.
Unconscious actors,—it may be
That here we painfully rehearse,
In parts, whose plots we do not see,
Some drama of the universe,—
Advanced, as nobler grow our souls,
To loftier roles.