Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PILGRIM'S TALE, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON

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THE PILGRIM'S TALE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I have gone east, I have gone west
Last Line: Apply its lesson as ye may.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia

I HAVE gone east, I have gone west,
To seek for what I cannot find;
A heart at peace with its own thoughts,
A quiet and contented mind.
I have sought high, I have sought low,
Alike my search has been in vain;
The same lip mix'd the smile and sigh,
The same hour mingled joy and pain.
And first I sought 'mid sceptred kings;
Power was, so peace might be, with them:
They cast a look of weariness
Upon the care-lined diadem.
I ask'd the soldier; and he spoke
Of a dear quiet home afar,
And whisper'd of the vanity,
The ruin, and the wrong of war.
I saw the merchant 'mid his wealth;
Peace surely would with plenty be:
But no! his thoughts were all abroad
With their frail ventures on the sea.
I heard a lute's soft music float
In summer sweetness on the air;
But the poet's brow was worn and wan, --
I saw peace was not written there.
And then I number'd o'er the ills,
That wait upon our mortal scene;
No marvel peace was not with them,
The marvel were if it had been.
First, childhood comes with all to learn,
And even more than all, to bear
Restraint, reproof, and punishment,
And pleasures seen but not to share.
Youth, like the Scriptures' madman, next,
Scattering around the burning coal;
With hasty deeds and misused gifts,
That leave their ashes on the soul.
Then manhood, wearied, wasted, worn,
With hopes destroy'd and feelings dead;
And worldly caution, worldly wants,
Coldness and carelessness instead.
Then age, at last, dark, sullen, drear,
The breaking of a worn-out wave;
Letting us know that life has been
But the rough passage to the grave.
Thus we go on; hopes change to fears
Like fairy gold that turns to clay,
And pleasure darkens into pain,
And time is measured by decay.
First, our fresh feelings are our wealth, --
They pass, and leave a void behind;
Then comes ambition with its wars,
That stir but to pollute the mind.
We loathe the present, and we dread
To think on what to come may be;
We look back on the past, and trace
A thousand wrecks, a troubled sea.
I have been over many lands,
And each and all I found the same;
Hope in its borrow'd plumes, and care
Madden'd and mask'd in pleasure's name.
I have no tale of knightly deed:
Why should I tell of guilt and death,
Of plains deep dyed in human blood,
Of fame which lies in mortal breath.
I have no tale of lady love,
Begun and ended in a sigh,
The wilful folly nursed in smiles,
Though born in bitterness to die,
I have a tale from Eastern lands,
The same shall be my song to-day;
It tells of vanity of life, --
Apply its lesson as ye may.

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