The Choir Invisible

O May I join the choir invisible  
Of those immortal dead who live again  
In minds made better by their presence: live  
In pulses stirr'd to generosity,  
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn 
For miserable aims that end with self,  
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,  
And with their mild persistence urge man's search  
To vaster issues.  
        So to live is heaven:  
To make undying music in the world,  
Breathing as beauteous order that controls  
With growing sway the growing life of man.  
So we inherit that sweet purity  
For which we struggled, fail'd, and agoniz'd 
With widening retrospect that bred despair.  
Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,  
A vicious parent shaming still its child,  
Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolv'd;  
Its discords, quench'd by meeting harmonies,   
Die in the large and charitable air.  
And all our rarer, better, truer self,  
That sobb'd religiously in yearning song,  
That watch'd to ease the burthen of the world,  
Laboriously tracing what must be,      
And what may yet be better,—saw within  
A worthier image for the sanctuary,  
And shap'd it forth before the multitude,  
Divinely human, raising worship so  
To higher reverence more mix'd with love,—    
That better self shall live till human Time  
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky  
Be gather'd like a scroll within the tomb Unread forever.  
        This is life to come,  
Which martyr'd men have made more glorious       
For us who strive to follow. May I reach  
That purest heaven, be to other souls  
The cup of strength in some great agony,  
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,  
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffus'd,  
And in diffusion ever more intense!  
So shall I join the choir invisible  
Whose music is the gladness of the world.

This poem is in the public domain.