Part of our life’s unalterable good,
Of all our saintlier aspiration;
They come transfigured back,
Secure from change in their high-hearted ways,
Beautiful evermore, and with the rays 270
Of morn on their white Shields of Expectation!
[Footnote 7: See Shakespeare, King Henry IV. Pt. I Act II Sc. 3. “Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.”]
[Footnote 8: See the Book of Numbers, chapter xiii.]
[Footnote 9: Compare Gray’s line in Elegy in a Country Churchyard. “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”]
But is there hope to save
Even this ethereal essence from the grave?
What ever ’scaped Oblivion’s subtle wrong
Save a few clarion names, or golden threads of song 275
Before my musing eye
The mighty ones of old sweep by,
Disvoiced now and insubstantial things,
As noisy once as we; poor ghosts of kings,
Shadows of empire wholly gone to dust, 280
And many races, nameless long ago,
To darkness driven by that imperious gust
Of ever-rushing Time that here doth blow:
O visionary world, condition strange,
Where naught abiding is but only Change, 285
Where the deep-bolted stars themselves still shift and range!
Shall we to more continuance make pretence?
Renown builds tombs; a life-estate is Wit;
And, bit by bit,
The cunning years steal all from us but woe: 290
Leaves are we, whose decays no harvest sow.
But, when we vanish hence,
Shall they lie forceless in the dark below,
Save to make green their little length of sods,
Or deepen pansies for a year or two, 295
Who now to us are shining-sweet as gods?
Was dying all they had the skill to do?
That were not fruitless: but the Soul resents
Such short-lived service, as if blind events
Ruled without her, or earth could so endure; 300
She claims a more divine investiture
Of longer tenure than Fame’s airy rents;
Whate’er she touches doth her nature share;
Her inspiration haunts the ennobled air,
Gives eyes to mountains blind,
Ears to the deaf earth, voices to the wind, 305
And her clear trump sings succor everywhere
By lonely bivouacs to the wakeful mind,
For soul inherits all that soul could dare:
Yea, Manhood hath a wider span
And larger privilege of life than man. 310
The single deed, the private sacrifice,
So radiant now through proudly-hidden tears,
Is covered up ere long from mortal eyes
With thoughtless drift of the deciduous years;
But that high privilege that makes all men peers,