Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NECESSITY, by LUCY AIKEN



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NECESSITY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Yes, I too mark with anxious eye
Last Line: The world's great pageant passing by.
Alternate Author Name(s): Aikin, Lucy


YES, I too mark with anxious eye
The world's great pageant passing by!
Breathless I catch the mighty Name
That swells, that fills, the trump of fame;
On wings of speed, with eye of fire,
He comes, I shudder and admire:
The battle roars, the day is won,
Exulting Fortune crowns her son:
Sickening I turn on yonder plain
To mourn the widows and the slain;
To mourn the woes, the crimes of man,
To search in vain the eternal plan,
In outraged nature claim a part,
And ponder, desolate of heart.
But, restless long, the wanderer Thought
Returns at length with comfort fraught;
And thus, with look benign, serene,
Would moralize the mortal scene.
Weep'st thou the dead? and who are they?
Those powerless limbs, that senseless clay?
Weep'st thou the dead? and canst thou read
The spirit's doom, the spirit's meed?
Go, fold thine arms, and bow the head
In reverence over their lowly bed;
Then lift thy brow, and calmly trust
The Wise, the Merciful, the Just.
The widowed -- yes, they claim a tear,
Yet comfort meets us even here:
'Tis but the fate of one short span
That lies within the gripe of man:
Whate'er of joy the oppressor steals,
Whate'er of ill the victim feels,
The lapse of ages in their course
Shall bring a compensating force,
Succeeding worlds atone the past,
And strike our balance right at last.
Unclench thy hand, subdue thine eye!
Recall those curses loud and high!
Tame thy rude breast's vindictive swell,
Nor rave of everlasting hell!
"I hate the oppressor!" say'st thou. Hate
A poor, blind, instrument of fate?
Does not the tyrant's self obey
Some feller tyrant's lawless sway?
See Anger goad his fiery breast,
Remorse, Suspicion, kill his rest,
And rather say, "Thou suffering soul,
Doomed for a time beneath the pole
In guilt, in fear, short breath to fetch,
A hated, solitary wretch, --
May Death his friendly stroke extend,
And soon thy hard commission end,
And bear thee hence, O sweet release!
To taste of innocence and peace!"
For human woe, for human weal,
Man will, man must, man ought to feel;
And while they feel, the untutored crowd
With clamours vehement and loud
Will rend the skies, and wildly trust
God shall revenge , for God is just!
They see not a resistless might
Still guide us on, and guide us right;
Foreseen our passions' utmost force,
Foredoomed our most eccentric course,
We seem to will, nor cease to be
Slaves of a strong necessity.
This knows the sage, and calmly sees
Vice, matter's weakness or disease;
The eternal Mind, the first great Cause,
A power immense, but bound by laws;
Wise all its ways -- contriving still
The most of good, the least of ill,
Redressing all it can redress,
And turned to pity and to bless.
Toucht by this faith, his mellowing mind,
From terror and from wrath refined,
Light from the scene upsprings, and wrought
To tender ecstasy of thought,
Sees a just God's impartial smile
Relieve the opprest, restore the vile,
Pour good on all: -- with joy, with love,
He looks around, he looks above;
And views no more with anxious eye
The world's great pageant passing by.


















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