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It will come, I suspect, at the end of life,
When you walk alone, and review the past; And I, who so long shall have done with strife,
And journeyed my stage, and earned my wage, And retired as was right, I am called at last
When the devil stabs you, to lend the knife.
He stabs for the minute of trivial wrong,
Nor the other hours are able to save,
For a promise broke, not for first words spoke,
To a blaze of joy and a crash of song.
Witness beforehand! Off I trip
On a safe path gay through the flowers you flung : : My very name made great by your lip,
And my heart a-glow with the good I know Of a perfect year when we both were young,
And I tasted the angels’ fellowship.
And witness, moreover . . . Ah, but wait!
I spy the loop whence an arrow shoots ! It may be for yourself, when you meditate,
That you grieve—for slain ruth, murdered truth : “ Though falsehood escape in the end, what boots ?
How truth would have triumphed !”—you sigh too
Ay, who would have triumphed like you, I say !
Well, it is lost now; well, you must bear, Abide and grow fit for a better day:
You should hardly grudge, could I be your judge ! But hush! For you, can be no despair:
There 's amends : 'tis a secret: hope and pray!
For I was true at least-oh, true enough!
And, dear, truth is not as good as it seems!
Much help is in mine, as I mope and pine,
At my swan’s obtaining the crow's rebuff.
Men tell me of truth now—“False !” I cry:
Of beauty—“A mask, friend! Look beneath !” We take our own method, the devil and I,
With pleasant and fair and wise and rare: And the best we wish to what lives, is—death ;
Which even in wishing, perhaps we lie!
Far better commit a fault and have done
As you, dear !—for ever; and choose the pure, And look where the healing waters run,
And strive and strain to be good again, And a place in the other world insure,
All glass and gold, with God for its sun.
Misery! What shall I say or do ?
I cannot advise, or, at least, persuade : Most like, you are glad you deceived me-rue
No whit of the wrong: you endured too long, Have done no evil and want no aid,
Will live the old life out and chance the new.
And your sentence is written all the same,
And I can do nothing,-pray, perhaps : But somehow the world pursues its game,
If I pray, if I curse,- for better or worse : And my faith is torn to a thousand scraps, And my heart feels ice while my words breathe
Dear, I look from my hiding-place.
Are you still so fair ? Have you still the eyes ? Be happy! Add but the other grace,
Be good! Why want what the angels vaunt ? I knew you once : but in Paradise,
If we meet, I will pass nor turn my face.