Yet life is not a vision nor a prayer, But stubborn work; she may not shun her task. After the first compassion, none will spare Her portion and her work achieved, to ask. She pleads for respite,—she will come ere long When, resting by the roadside, she is strong. Nay, for the hurrying throng of passers-by Will crush her with their onward-rolling stream. Much must be done before the brief light die; She may not loiter, rapt in the vain dream. With unused trembling hands, and faltering feet, She staggers forth, her lot assigned to meet. But when she fills her days with duties done, Strange vigor comes, she is restored to health. New aims, new interests rise with each new sun, And life still holds for her unbounded wealth. All that seemed hard and toilsome now proves small, And naught may daunt her,—she hath strength for all.
As the blind Milton’s memory of light,
The deaf Beethoven’s phantasy of tone,
Wrought joys for them surpassing all things known
In our restricted sphere of sound and sight,—
So while the glaring streets of brick and stone
Vex with heat, noise, and dust from morn till night,
I will give rein to Fancy, taking flight
From dismal now and here, and dwell alone
With new-enfranchised senses. All day long,
Think ye ’t is I, who sit ’twixt darkened walls,
While ye chase beauty over land and sea?
Uplift on wings of some rare poet’s song,
Where the wide billow laughs and leaps and falls,
I soar cloud-high, free as the winds are free.
Who grasps the substance? who ’mid shadows strays?
He who within some dark-bright wood reclines,
’Twixt sleep and waking, where the needled pines
Have cushioned all his couch with soft brown sprays?
He notes not how the living water shines,
Trembling along the cliff, a flickering haze,
Brimming a wine-bright pool, nor lifts his gaze
To read the ancient wonders and the signs.
Does he possess the actual, or do I,
Who paint on air more than his sense receives,
The glittering pine-tufts with closed eyes behold,
Breathe the strong resinous perfume, see the sky
Quiver like azure flame between the leaves,
And open unseen gates with key of gold?