Sweet, when the great sea's water is stirred to his depths by the storm- winds,
Standing ashore to descry one afar-off mightily struggling:
Not that a neighbour's sorrow to you yields blissful enjoyment;
But that the sight hath a sweetness, of ills ourselves are exempt from.
Sweet 'tis too to behold, on a broad plain mustering, war-hosts
Arm them for some great battle, one's self unscathed by the danger:-
Yet still happier this:- To possess, impregnably guarded,
Those calm heights of the sages, which have for an origin Wisdom;
Thence to survey our fellows, observe them this way and that way
Wander amidst Life's paths, poor stragglers seeking a highway:
Watch mind battle with mind, and escutcheon rival escutcheon;
Gaze on that untold strife, which is waged 'neath the sun and the starlight,
Up as they toil to the surface whereon rest Riches and Empire.
O race born unto trouble! O minds all lacking of eyesight!
'Neath what a vital darkness, amidst how terrible dangers,
Move ye thro' this thing, Life, this fragment! Fools, that ye hear not
Nature clamour aloud for the one thing only; that, all pain
Parted and past from the Body, the Mind too bask in a blissful
Dream, all fear of the future and all anxiety over!
So, as regards Man's Body, a few things only are needful,
(Few, tho' we sum up all,) to remove all misery from him;
Aye, and to strew in his path such a lib'ral carpet of pleasures,
That scarce Nature herself would at times ask happiness ampler.
Statues of youth and of beauty may not gleam golden around him,
(Each in his right hand bearing a great lamp lustrously burning,
Whence to the midnight revel a light may be furnished always);
Silver may not shine softly, nor gold blaze bright, in his mansion,
Nor to the noise of the tabret his halls gold-corniced echo
Yet still he, with his fellow, reposed on the velvety greensward,
Near to a rippling stream, by a tall tree canopied over,
Shall, though they lack great riches, enjoy all bodily pleasure.
Chiefliest then, when above them a fair sky smiles, and the young year
Flings with a bounteous hand over each green meadow the wild-flowers:-
Not more quickly depart from his bosom fiery fevers,
Who beneath crimson hangings and pictures cunningly broidered
Tosses about, than from him who must lie in beggarly raiment.
Therefore, since to the Body avail not Riches, avails not
Heraldry's utmost boast, nor the pomp and the pride of an Empire;
Next shall you own, that the Mind needs likewise nothing of these things.
Unless - when, peradventure, your armies over the champaign
Spread with a stir and a ferment, and bid War's image awaken,
Or when with stir and with ferment a fleet sails forth upon Ocean -
Cowed before these brave sights, pale Superstition abandon
Straightway your mind as you gaze, Death seem no longer alarming,
Trouble vacate your bosom, and Peace hold holiday in you.
But, if (again) all this be a vain impossible fiction;
If of a truth men's fears, and the cares which hourly beset them,
Heed not the jav'lin's fury, regard not clashing of broadswords;
But all-boldly amongst crowned heads and the rulers of empires
Stalk, not shrinking abashed from the dazzling glare of the red gold,
Not from the pomp of the monarch, who walks forth purple-apparelled:
These things shew that at times we are bankrupt, surely, of Reason;
When too all Man's life through a great Dark laboureth onward.
For, as a young boy trembles, and in that mystery, Darkness,
Sees all terrible things: so do we too, ev'n in the daylight,
Ofttimes shudder at that, which is not more really alarming
Than boys' fears, when they waken, and say some danger is o'er them.
So this panic of mind, these clouds which gather around us,
Fly not the bright sunbeam, nor the ivory shafts of the Day-star:
Nature, rightly revealed, and the Reason only, dispel them.
Now, how moving about do the prime material atoms
Shape forth this thing and that thing; and, once shaped, how they resolve them;
What power says unto each, This must be; how an inherent
Elasticity drives them about Space vagrantly onward; -
I shall unfold: thou simply give all thyself to my teaching.
Matter mingled and massed into indissoluble union
Does not exist. For we see how wastes each separate substance;
So flow piecemeal away, with the length'ning centuries, all things,
Till from our eye by degrees that old self passes, and is not.
Still Universal Nature abides unchanged as aforetime.
Whereof this is the cause. When the atoms part from a substance,
That suffers loss; but another is elsewhere gaining an increase:
So that, as one thing wanes, still a second bursts into blossom,
Soon, in its turn, to be left. Thus draws this Universe always
Gain out of loss; thus live we mortals one on another.
Bourgeons one generation, and one fades. Let but a few years
Pass, and a race has arisen which was not: as in a racecourse,
One hands on to another the burning torch of Existence.