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The triumphal arch thro' which I march
When the powers of the air are chained to my chair,
The sphere-fire above its soft colors wove,
I am the daughter of earth and water,
I pass thro' the pores of the ocean and shores;
For after the rain, when with never a stain,
The pavilion of heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams, Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,—
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb, I arise and build it again.
THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS 1
BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And the coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
1 By permission of Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim, dreaming life was wont to dwell,
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
Year after year beheld the silent toil
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in its last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew with wreathed horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!
RABBI BEN EZRA 1
BY ROBERT BROWNING
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I plann'd,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"
Not that, amassing flowers,
Youth sigh'd "Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall!"
Not that, admiring stars,
It yearn'd "Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"
Not for such hopes and fears
Annulling youth's brief years,
Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finish'd and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.
Poor vaunt of life indeed,
Were man but form'd to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast:
Such feasting ended, then
As sure an end to men;
Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-cramm'd
1 By permission of The Macmillan Co.
Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.
Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!
For thence -a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.
What is he but a brute
Whose flesh has soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test
Thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way!
Yet gifts should prove their use:
I own the Past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once "How good to live and
Not once beat "Praise be Thine!
I see the whole design,
I, who saw power, see now love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete-I trust what Thou shalt do!"
For pleasant is this flesh;
Our soul, in its rose-mesh
Pull'd ever to the earth, still yearns for rest:
Would we some prize might hold
To match those manifold
Possessions of the brute-gain most, as we did best!
Let us not always say
"Spite of this flesh to-day
I strove, made head, gain'd ground upon the whole!"
As the bird wings and sings,
Let us cry "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"
Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,
Life's struggle having so far reach'd its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
man, for ay removed
From the develop'd brute; a God tho in the germ.