No marble tells us whither. With their names
No bard embalms and sanctifies his song;
And History, so warm on meaner themes,
Is cold on this. She execrates indeed
The tyranny that doom’d them to the fire,
But gives the glorious sufferers little praise.
[Notes:_William Cowper_ (born 1731, died 1800), the author of ’The Task,’ ‘Progress of Error,’ ‘Truth,’ and many other poems; all marked by the same pure thought and chaste language.
This poem is written in what is called “blank verse,” i.e., verse in which the lines do not rhyme, the rhythm depending on the measure of the verse.
To the sweet lyre = To the poet, whose lyre (or poetry) is to keep their names alive.
The Historic Muse. The ancients held that there were nine Muses or Goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences; and of these, one was the Muse of History.
Gives bond in stone, &c. = Pledges herself. The pith of the phrase is in its almost homely simplicity, the more striking in its contrast with the classical allusions by which it is surrounded.
Her trust, i.e., what is trusted to her.
To anticipate the skies = to ennoble our life and so approach that higher life we hope for after death.
Till persecution dragged them into fame = forced them by its cruelty to become famous against their will.
No marble tells us whither. Because they have no tombstone and no epitaph.]
* * * * *
A PSALM OF LIFE.
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest;”
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still like muffled drums are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field
In the Bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;—
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.