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So I saw that despondency was death, and flung my burdens from me,
And, lightened by that effort, I was raised above the world;
Yea, in the strangeness of my vision, I seemed to soar on wings,
And the names they called my wings were Cheerfulness and Wisdom.
SPEAK, poor almsman of to-day, whom none can assure of a to-morrow,
Tell out, with honest heart, the price thou settest upon yesterday.
Is it then a writing in the dust, traced by the finger of idleness,
Which Industry, clean housewife, can wipe away for ever?
Is it as a furrow on the sand, fashioned by the toying waves,
Quickly to be trampled then again by the feet of the returning tide ?
Is it as the pale blue smoke, rising from a peasant's hovel,
That melteth into limpid air, before it topped the larches ?
Is it but a vision, unstable and unreal, which wise men soon forget ?
Is it as the stranger of the night,-gone, we heed not whither ?
Alas! thou foolish heart, whose thoughts are but as these,
Alas! deluded soul, that hopeth thus of Yesterday.
For, behold,—those temples of Ellora, the Brahm 's rock-built shrine,
Behold,—yon granite cliff, which the North Sea buffeteth in vain,—
That stout old forest fir,—these waking verities of life,-
This guest abiding ever, not strange, nor a servant, but a son,-
Such, 0 man, are vanity and dreams, transient as a rainbow on the cloud,
Weighed against that solid fact, thine ill-remembered Yesterday.
Come, let me show thee an ensample, where Nature shall instruct us;
Luxuriantly the arguments for truth spring native in her gardens.
Seek we yonder woodman of the plain ; he is measuring his axe to the elm,
And anon the sturdy strokes ring upon the wintry air :
Eagerly the village schoolboys cluster on the tightened rope,
Shouting, and bending to the pull, or lifted from the ground elastic;
The huge tree boweth like Sisera, boweth to its foes with faintness,
Its sinews crack,-deep groans declare the reeling anguish of Goliath,
The wedge is driven home,—and the saw is at its heart,--and lo, with
solemn slowness, The shuddering monarch riseth from his throne, toppled with a crash,
and is fallen!
Now, shall the mangled stump teach proud man a lesson ;
Now, can we from that elm-tree's sap distill the wine of Truth.
Heed ye those hundred rings, concentric from the core,
Eddying in various waves to the red bark's shore-like rim ?
These be the gathering of yesterdays, present all to-day,
This is the tree's judgment, self-history that cannot be gainsaid :
Seven years agone there was a drought,—and the seventh ring is nar-
The fifth from hence was half a deluge,—the fifth is cellular and broad.
Thus, Man, thou art a result, the growth of many yesterdays,
That stamp thy secret soul with marks of weal or woe:
Thou art an almanac of self, the living record of thy deeds ;
Spirit hath its scars as well as body, sore and aching in their season :
Here is a knot,-it was a crime; there is a canker,—selfishness;
Lo, here, the heart-wood rotten; lo, there, perchance, the sap-wood sound.
Nature teacheth not in vain; thy works are in thee, of thee;
Some present evil bent hath grown of older errors ;
And what if thou be walking now uprightly? Salve not thy wounds
with poison, As if a petty goodness of to-day hath blotted out the sin of yesterday: It is well, thou hast life and light; and the Hewer showeth mercy, Dressing the root, pruning the branch, and looking for thy tardy fruits ; But, even here, as thou standest, cheerful belike and careless, The stains of ancient evil are upon thee, the record of thy wrong is in
thee : For, a curse of many yesterdays is thine, many yesterdays of sin, That, haply little heeded now, shall blast thy many morrows.
Shall then a man reck nothing, but hurl mad defiance at his Judge,
Knowing that less than an omnipotent cannot make the has been, not been?
He ought,-so Satan spake; he must,—so Atheism urgeth ;
He may, it was the libertine's thought; he doth,—the bad world said it.
But thou of humbler heart, thou student wiser for simplicity,
While nature warneth thee betimes, heed the loving counsel of Religion.
True, this change is good, and penitence most precious;
But trust not thou thy change, nor rest upon repentance ;
For we all are corrupted at the core, smooth as surface seemeth ;
What health can bloom in a beautiful skin, when rottenness hath fed upon
the bones ? And guilt is parcel of us all ; not thou, sweet nursling of affection, Art spotless, though so passing fair,—nor thou, mild patriarch of virtue.
Behold then the better Tree of Life, free unto us all for grafting,
Cut thee from the hollow root of self, to be budded on a richer Vine.
Be desperate, O man, as of evil, so of good : tear that tunic from thee;
The past can never be retrieved, be the present what it may.
Vain is the penance and the scourge, vain the fast and vigil ;
The fencer's cautious skill to-day, can this erase his scars ?
It is Man's to famish as a faquir, it is Man's to die a devotee,
Light is the torture and the toil, balanced with the wages of Eternity :
But, it is God's to yearn in love on the humblest, the poorest, and the
For he giveth freely, as a King, asking only thanks for mercy.
this noble-hearted Substitute; seeing thy woes, he pitied thee, Bowed beneath the mountain of thy sin, and perished, but for Godhead ; There stood the Atlas in his power, and Prometheus in his love is there, Emptying on wretched man the blessings earned from heaven: Put them not away, hide them in thy heart, poor and penitent receiver, Be gratitude thy counsellor to good, and wholesome fear unto obedience: Remember, the pruning-knife is keen, cutting cankers even from the vine : Remember, twelve were chosen, and one among them liveth—in perdition.
Yea,—for standing unatoned, the soul is a bison on the prairie,
Hunted by those trooping wolves, the many sinful yesterdays :
And it speedeth a terrified Deucalion, flinging back the pebble in his flight,
The pebble that must add one more to those pursuing ghosts. (*)
O man, there is a storm behind, should drive thy bark to haven;
Thy foe, the foe is on thy track, patient, certain, and avenging ;
Day by day, solemnly and silently, followeth the fearful past,-
His step is lame but sure ; for he catcheth the present in eternity :
And how to escape that foe, the present-past in future ?
How to avert that fate, living consequence of causes unexistent ?
Boldly we must overleap his birth, and date above his memories,
Grafted on the living Tree that was before a yesterday ;
No refuge of a younger birth than one that saw creation,
Can hide the child of time from still condemning yesterday.
There is the Sanctuary-city, mocking at the wrath of thine Avenger,
Close at hand, with its wicket on the latch; haste for thy life, poor
The gladiator, Guilt, fighteth as of old, armed with net and dagger;
Snaring in the mesh of yesterdays, stabbing with the poniard of to-day:
Fly, thy sword is broken at the hilt; fly, thy shield is shivered ;
Leap the barriers and baffle him ; the arena of the past is his.
The bounds of Guilt are the cycles of Time; thou must be safe within
The arms of God alone shall rescue thee from Yesterday.
Now, is the constant syllable ticking from the clock of time,
Now, is the watchword of the wise, Now, is on the banner of the prudent.
Cherish thy to-day and prize it well, or ever it be gulfed into the past,
Husband it, for who can promise if it shall have a morrow ?
Behold thou art,—it is enough; that present care be thine ;
Leave thou the past to thy Redeemer, intrust the future to thy Friend;
But for to-day, child of man, tend thou charily the minutes,
The harvest of thy yesterday, the seed-corn of thy morrow.
Last night died its day; and the deeds thereof were judged :
Thou didst lay thee down as in a shroud, in darkness and death-like
But at the trumpet of this morn, waking the world to resurrection,
Thou didst arise, like others, to live a new day's life";
Fear, lest folly give thee cause to mourn its passing presence,
Fear, that to-morrow's sigh be not, would God it had not dawned !
For, To-day the lists are set, and thou must bear thee bravely,
Tilting for honour, duty, life, or death without reproach:
To-day, is the trial of thy fortitude, O dauntless Mandan chief;
To-day, is thy watch, 0 sentinel; to-day thy reprieve, O captive;
What more ? to-day is the golden chance wherewith to snatch fruition,
Be glad, grateful, temperate : there are asps among the figs.
For the potter's clay is in thy hands,-to mould it or to mar it at thy will,
Or idly to leave it in the sun, an uncouth lump, to harden.
O bright presence of To-day, let me wrestle with thee, gracious angel,
I will not let thee go, except thou bless me; bless me, then, To-day:
O sweet garden of To-day, let me gather of thee, precious Eden,
I have stolen bitter knowledge, give me fruits of life To-day:
O true temple of To-day, let me worship in thee, glorious Zion ;
I find none other place nor time, than where I am To-day:
O living rescue of To-day, let me run unto thee, ark of refuge;
I see none other hope nor chance, but standeth in To-day:
O rich banquet of To-day, let me feast upon thee, saving manna;
I have none other food nor store, but daily bread To-day !
Behold, thou art pilot of the ship, and owner of that freighted galleon.
Competent, with all thy weakness, to steer into safety or be lost :
Compass and chart are in thy hand : roadstead and rocks thou knowest ;
Thou art warned of reefs and shallows; thou beholdest the harbour and
its lights. What ? shall thy wantonness or sloth drive the gallant vessel on the
breakers ? What? shall the helmsman's hand wear upon the black lee shore ? Vain is that excuse ; thou canst escape : thy mind is responsible for
wrong : Vain that murmur; thou may’st live: thy soul is debtor for the right. To-day, in the voyage of thy life down the dark tide of time, Stand boldly to thy tiller, guide thee by the pole-star, and be safe ; To-day, passing near the sunken-rocks, the quicksands and whirlpools of
probation, Leave awhile the rudder to swing round, give the wind its heading, and be
The crisis of man's destiny is Now, a still recurring danger :
Who can tell the trials and temptations coming with the coming hour ?
Thou standest a target-like Sebastian, and the arrows whistle near thee :
Who knoweth when he may be hit ? for great is the company of archers.