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What it professed to praise-though not so well
Maintained but that rate outbreaks, fierce as brief,
Revealed the hidden scorn, as quickly curbed—
That ostentatious show of past defeat,
That ready acquiescence in contempt,
I deemed no other than the letting go
His shivered sword, of one about to spring
Upon his foe's throat; but it was not thus:
Not that way looked your brooding purpose then.
For after-signs disclosed, what you confirmed,
That you prepared to task to the uttermost
Your strength, in furtherance of a certain aim,
Which-while it bore the name your rivals gave
Their own most puny efforts-was so vast
In scope that it included their best flights,
Combined them, and desired to gain one prize
In place of many, the secret of the world,
Of man, and man's true purpose, path, and fate: ̧
-That you, not nursing as a mere vague dream
This purpose, with the sages of the Past,
Have struck upon a way to this, if all
You trust be true, which following, heart and soul,
You, if a man may, dare aspire to KNOW:
And that this aim shall differ from a host
Of aims alike in character and kind,
Mostly in this,-to seek its own reward
In itself only, not an alien end
To blend therewith; no hope, nor fear, nor joy,
Nor woe, to elsewhere move you, but this pure
Devotion to sustain you or betray:
You shall not state it thus:
I should not differ from the dreamy crew
You speak of. I profess no other share
In the selection of my lot, than this,
A ready answer to the will of God
Who summons me to be his organ all
Whose innate strength supports them shall succeed No better than your sages.
Such the aim, then,
God sets before you; and 'tis doubtless need
That he appoint no less the way of praise.
Than the desire to praise; for, though I hold
With you, the setting forth such praise to be
The natural end and service of a man,
And think such praise is best attained when man
Attains the general welfare of his kind-
Yet, this, the end, is not the instrument.
Presume not to serve God apart from such
Appointed channel as He wills shall gather
Imperfect tributes-for that sole obedience
Valued, perchance. He seeks not that his altars
Blaze-careless how, so that they do but blaze.
Suppose this, then; that God selected you
TO KNOW (heed well your answers, for my faith
Shall meet implicitly what they affirm)
I cannot think you dare annex to such
Selection aught beyond a steadfast will,
An intense hope, nor let your gifts create
Scorn or neglect of ordinary means
Conducive to success-make destiny
Dispense with man's endeavour. Now, dare you search Your inmost heart, and candidly avow
Whether you have not rather wild desire,
For this distinction, than security
Of its existence; whether you discern
The path to the fulfilment of your purpose
Clear as that purpose-and again, that purpose
Clear as your yearning to be singled out
For its pursuer. Dare you answer this?
Par. (After a pause.) No, I have nought to fear! Who
The secret'st workings of my soul. What though
It be so?if indeed the strong desire
Eclipse the aim in me ?-if splendour break
Upon the outset of my path alone,
And duskest shade succeed? What fairer seal
Shall I require to my authentic mission
Than this fierce energy?-this instinct striving
Because its nature is to strive?-enticed
By the security of no broad course,
With no success forever in its eyes!
How know I else such glorious fate my own,
But in the restless irresistible force
That works within me? Is it for human will
To institute such impulses ?-still less,
To disregard their promptings? What should I
Do, kept among you all; your loves, your cares,
Your life-all to be mine?
Ne'er dooms to waste the strength he deigns impart !
Ask the gier-eagle why she stoops at once
Into the vast and unexplored abyss,
What full-grown power informs her from the first,
Why she not marvels, strenuously beating
The silent boundless regions of the sky!
Be sure they sleep not whom God needs! Nor fear
Their holding light his charge, when every hour
That finds that charge delayed, is a new death.
This for the faith in which I trust; and hence
I can abjure so well the idle arts
These pedants strive to learn and teach; Black Arts,
Great Works, the Secret and Sublime, forsooth-
Let others prize: too intimate a tie
Connects me with our God! A sullen fiend
To do my bidding, fallen and hateful sprites
To help me what are these, at best, beside
God helping, God directing everywhere,
So that the earth shall yield her secrets up,
And every object shall be charged to strike,
Teach, gratify, her master God appoints?
And I am young, my Festus, happy and free!
I can devote myself; I have a life
To give; I, singled out for this, the One!
Think, think; the wide east, where old Wisdom sprung; The bright south, where she dwelt; the hopeful north, All are past o'er-it lights on me! 'Tis time
New hopes should animate the world, new light
Should dawn from new revealings to a race
Weighed down so long, forgotten so long; so shall
The heaven reserved for us, at last receive
Creatures whom no unwonted splendours blind,
But ardent to confront the unclouded blaze
Whose beams not seldom blessed their pilgrimage,
Not seldom glorified their life below.
Fest. My words have their old fate and make faint stand
Against your glowing periods. Call this, truth-
Why not pursue it in a fast retreat,
Some one of Learning's many palaces,
After approved example; seeking there
Calm converse with the great dead, soul to soul,
Who laid up treasure with the like intent?
-So lift yourself into their airy place,
And fill out full their unfulfilled careers,
Unravelling the knots their baffled skill
Pronounced inextricable, true!-but left
Far less confused? A fresh eye, a fresh hand,
Might do much at their vigour's waning-point;
Succeeding with new-breathed and earnest force,
As at old games a runner snatched the torch
From runner still: this way success might be.
But you have coupled with your enterprise,
An arbitrary self-repugnant scheme
Of seeking it in strange and untried paths.
What books are in the desert? writes the sea
The secret of her yearning in vast caves