Oh God! How long is art,
Our life how short! With earnest zeal
Still as I ply the critic’s task, I feel
A strange oppression both of head and heart.
The very means—how hardly are they won,
By which we to the fountains rise!
And, haply, ere one half the course is run,
Check’d in his progress, the poor devil dies.
Parchment, is that the sacred fount whence roll
Waters he thirsteth not who once hath quaffed?
Oh, if it gush not from thine inmost soul,
Thou hast not won the life-restoring draught.
Your pardon! ’tis delightful to transport
Oneself into the spirit of the past,
To see in times before us how a wise man thought,
And what a glorious height we have achieved at last.
Ay, truly! even to the loftiest star!
To us, my friend, the ages that are pass’d
A book with seven seals, close-fasten’d, are;
And what the spirit of the times men call,
Is merely their own spirit after all,
Wherein, distorted oft, the times are glass’d.
Then truly, ’tis a sight to grieve the soul!
At the first glance we fly it in dismay;
A very lumber-room, a rubbish-hole;
At best a sort of mock-heroic play,
With saws pragmatical, and maxims sage,
To suit the puppets and their mimic stage.
But then the world and man, his heart and brain!
Touching these things all men would something know.
Ay! what ’mong men as knowledge doth obtain!
Who on the child its true name dares bestow?
The few who somewhat of these things have known,
Who their full hearts unguardedly reveal’d,
Nor thoughts, nor feelings, from the mob conceal’d,
Have died on crosses, or in flames been thrown.—
Excuse me, friend, far now the night is spent,
For this time we must say adieu.
Still to watch on I had been well content,
Thus to converse so learnedly with you.
But as tomorrow will be Easter-day,
Some further questions grant, I pray;
With diligence to study still I fondly cling;
Already I know much, but would know everything. [Exit.]
How him alone all hope abandons never,
To empty trash who clings, with zeal untired,
With greed for treasure gropes, and, joy-inspir’d,
Exults if earth-worms second his endeavor.
And dare a voice of merely human birth,
E’en here, where shapes immortal throng’d, intrude?
Yet ah! thou poorest of the sons of earth,
For once, I e’en to thee feel gratitude.
Despair the power of sense did well-nigh blast,
And thou didst save me ere I sank dismay’d;
So giant-like the vision seem’d, so vast,
I felt myself shrink dwarf’d as I survey’d!