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ON THE VANITY OF SMALL
ON THE VANITY OF SMALL SUCCESSES.
Oh! that our youth had dreamt to what an urn
Of dust our quick and high desires would shrink ! We stand upon the beach and ask return,
For barks ordained to sink !
There's not one plank on which we freight an aim
Purer than aught by life's coarse natures sought, Which the harsh sea engulphs not :---can we blame
Those who adventure nought ? But in a calm and chill philosophy
Suppress within them each more vague desire ; For them no half-felt feelings pant and sigh;
No unfledg’d hopes expire !
Mother of Fate-primæval Night--thine old
And unvex'd oracles are round me still; The sybil Stars, and She who lost her cold
Name on the Carian Hill !
Say thou,--..for in thy weird and demon homes
Thou shroud’st the spectres of departed lore, Dread Egypt's mysteries, and the mouldering tomes,
From which the Samian bore
The treasure of his doctrine !--All that glow'd
Out from the heart of man in ages gone Like perish'd stars into thy black abode,
Without a dirge have wonne !
Say_boots our labour?--Were it not more wise
To drink Life's tide unwitting where it flows, Renounce the high-soul'd toil, and only prize
The Cnidian vine and rose ?
True, for some few on whom her lavish smile,
Fame---the false Lais of the doting sage--Bestows; there may be somewhat to beguile
Youth's travail into Age !
The laurel lulls the aching brow it decks;
And the loud pæäns of the gazing horde,
Bring no disdained reward.
But here, among the dense and struggling herd,
For me no proud success and glory wait;
The Envy and the Hate
Envy and Hate !---for what ?--for boons so slight,
That I could gnaw my heart that mine they are, Did I not know that proud heart's baffled flight
Sought meeds how different far !
O Night !--my woo'd and won, and earliest friend,
Was it for this my soul I shaped and bowed, And from my dreams' Olympus did descend
To the self-vassal'd crowd?
Seeking---nor yet with vulgar wish-to wield
Arms coldly lov’d—but in a Cause of Right-Content for that-light hours and love to yield,
Was it for this sweet Night ?
Thou answerest not--but round thee, lo! the clouds
Are darkening into ire--the Moon is gone,
The storm sweeps labouring on!
Shine out---shine out, my true and stedfast soul
My answer and my solace come from thee! Round earth’s low heaven--the shade, the storm may roll,
Thou art a Heaven to Me!
Foes and Life's baffled ends--the hydra birth
Of cares---upon thy front can stamp no frown, But on the shifts and phantoms of the earth
Thou with a smile look’st down!
The waters to the lulling air !
How can I break the silence there?
What are ye, haggard and all ghastly warnings-
What are ye?—Phantoms of the brain ? — The crude
What! can these seerlike and unearthly shapes
What ! to these wretched wants mst we fulfil
Can we not hold ev’n this most lean and poor
Nay!—have ye not been prophets in your strange
The hardest and the coldest breasts have thrilled
We boast our growing wisdom !-Know we more
Oracular is here used in the sense of dubious. + Socrates.