Eyes, say, why were ye given your sight,
Your full blue orbs, with their roll and their light,
Which your lids of the lily with violet tinge
So often of late, with their long, dark fringe
From their folds in your arches descended to shade?
Ye have told many things—but not why ye were made.
"We were made to delight in the beauties of earth;
Then to see how they perished, how little their worth
They are changing, illusive, uncertain and brief,
From the flower's opening bud to its soon withered leaf.
The birth of their being is joined to decay;
They flourish, allure, and expire in a day.
On things like ourselves with delight we have shone;
We have studied their language and found it our own;
But the offspring of grief would extinguish their light,
And the spoiler's pale hand lock them up from our sight.
Or, keener, far keener, they'd let us behold
Their looks turning from us, unfeeling and cold,
Bequeathing this line, as we saw them depart,
'We go not alone, but are drawn by the heart!'
For things such as these, and still more were we made;
For watching, for aching, to sink and to fade;
To pour forth in silence the waters of sorrow,
Then, to close in a night that will bring us no morrow?"
And wherefore were you, ye thick locks, that were laid
In the clustering curls, or the bright sunny braid?
"To shine in our pride o'er the temples awhile,
Arresting the eye, and affecting the smile;
Then, loose, unadorned, and neglected, to go,
While the dark clouds of care shed among us their snow,
To be screened from life's storms by the marble and willow,
And to rest, thinned and damp, on a cold earthy pillow."
Ye withering roses that bloomed on the cheek,
Say, what was your purpose? and what do ye speak?
"Our errand was short —we've accomplished our duty,
And shown you how vain, and how fleeting is beauty!"
And thou, wasting form, once so buoyant and free,
So fair, and so flexile, come, say, what of thee?
"Like the insect that sports out its warm summer's day,
Or the atom that floats on the bright solar ray,
I have shone 'mid the glitter of fashion and pleasure;
I have flitted my hour, and have filled up my measure.
I have borne the bright chaplet, the silk's graceful fold;
Have decked myself out in rich fossils and gold;
Gay colors have clothed me, I've worn the light plume
To enliven my path to the verge of the tomb.
Yet I knew all the while, I was transient and frail;
I felt myself sinking, my energy fail.
I knew that the canker was trying his power,
That his tooth had begun at the heart of the flower,
That, true to his purpose, he'd finish my fall
To the final abode, the asylum of all."
If such be the end of each perishing part,
Immortal, invisible, tell what thou art;
Thy business, and what thou dost hope to inherit,
Thou restless, aspiring, unsatisfied Spirit!
"What my nature may be, there is none that can know,
But the Being above to whose presence I go.
But I've dwelt on this earth, and its joys have embraced,
'Till I've found myself wounded, deceived and disgraced.
Its flowers, when I touched them, would wither and fall;
I tasted its cup, but 't was mingled with gall.
Allured to its landscape, the serpent or snare
I found was concealed, and awaited me there;
That the rainbow hung o'er it, so bright to my eyes,
At best, was but vapor, or tears in disguise.
I have leant on this world, 'till with anguish I feel
It is harder, and colder, and keener than steel.
Only constant to change, and to falsehood but true,
It stabs while it kisses, and smiles to undo.
But for me the deceit of its visions are o'er;
They shall wound and enslave and ensnare me no more:
For faint, torn and bleeding, I turn from the earth,
And look up in faith to the realm of my birth:
I know there's a sun with a glorious light,
With beams full of healing, to burst on my sight,
Dispelling the shadows of sorrow and care;
I know that a balm, a Physician is there.
That country, that home, the unsatisfied spirit
Here sighs to recover, and hopes to inherit."