Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WANDERER: 6. PALINGENSIS: A PSALM OF CONFESSION, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON



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THE WANDERER: 6. PALINGENSIS: A PSALM OF CONFESSION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Full soon doth sorrow make her covenant
Last Line: Breaks, breaking from afar through a night shower.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Confessions; Travel; Journeys; Trips


FULL soon doth Sorrow make her covenant
With Life; and leave her shadow in the door:
And all those future days, for which we pant,
Do come in mourning for the days of yore.
Still through the world gleams Memory seeking Love,
Pale as the torch which grieving Ceres bore,
Seeking Proserpina, on that dark shore
Where only phantoms through the twilight move.

The more we change, the more is all the same,
Our last grief was a tale of other years
Quite outworn, till to our own hearts it came.
Wishes are pilgrims to the Vale of Tears.
Our brightest joys are but as airy shapes
Of cloud, that fade on evening's glimmering slope;
And disappointment hawks the hovering hope
Forever pecking at the painted grapes.

Why can we not one moment pause, and cherish
Love, though love turn to tears? or for hope's sake
Bless hope, albeit the thing we hope may perish?
For happiness is not in what we take,
But what we give. What matter though the thing
We cling to most should fail us? dust to dust,
It is the feeling for the thing, -- the trust
In beauty somewhere, to which souls should cling.

My youth has failed, if failure lies in aught
The warm heart dreams, or which the working hand
Is set to do. I have failed in aidless thought,
And steadfast purpose, and in self-command.
I have failed in hope, in health, in love: failed in the word,
And in the deed too I have failed. Ah yet,
Albeit with eyes from recent weepings wet,
Sing thou, my Soul, thy psalm unto the Lord!

The burthen of the desert and the sea!
The burthen of the vision in the vale!
My threshing-floor, my threshing-floor! ah me,
Thy wind hath strewn my corn, and spoiled the flail!
The burthen of Dumah and of Dedanim!
What of the night, O watchman, of the night?
The glory of Kedar faileth: and the might
Of mighty men is minished and dim.

The morning cometh, and the night, he cries.
The watchman cries the morning, too, is nigher.
And, if ye would inquire, lift up your eyes,
Inquire of the Lord, return, inquire!
I stand upon the watchtower all day long:
And all the night long I am set in ward.
Is it thy feet upon the mountains, Lord?
I sing against the darkness: hear my song!

The majesty of Kedar hath been spoiled:
Bound are the arrows: broken is the bow.
I come before the Lord with garments soiled.
The ashes of my life are on my brow.
Take thou thy harp, and go about the city.
O daughter of Desire, with garments torn:
Sing many songs, make melody, and mourn,
That thou may'st be remembered unto pity.

Just, awful God! here at thy feet I lay
My life's most precious offering: dearly bought,
Thou knowest with what toil by night and day:
Thou knowest the pain, the passion, and the thought.
I bring thee my youth's failure. I have spent
My youth upon it. All I have is here.
Were it worth all it is not, price more dear
Could I have paid for its accomplishment?

Yet it is much. If I could say to thee,
"Acquit me, Judge; for I am thus, and thus;
And have achieved -- even so much," -- should I be
Thus wholly fearless and impetuous
To rush into thy presence? I might weigh
The little done against the undone much:
My merit with thy mercy: and, as such,
Haggle with pardon for a price to pay.

But now the fulness of its failure makes
My spirit fearless; and despair grows bold.
My brow, beneath its sad self-knowledge, aches.
Life's presence passes Thine a thousand-fold
In contemplated terror. Can I lose
Aught by that desperate temerity
Which leaves no choice but to surrender Thee
My life without condition? Could I choose

A stipulated sentence, I might ask
For ceded dalliance to some cherisht vice:
Or half-remission of some desperate task:
Now, all I have is hateful. What is the price?
Speak, Lord! I hear the Fiend's hand at the door.
Hell's slavery or heaven's service is it the choice?
How can I palter with the terms? O voice,
Whence do I hear thee..."Go: and sin no more"?

No more, no more? But I have kist dead white
The cheek of Vice. No more the harlot hides
Her loathsomeness of lineament from my sight.
No more within my bosom there abides
Her poisoned perfume. O, the witch's mice
Have eat her scarlet robe and diaper,
And she fares naked! Part from her -- from her?
Is this the price, O Lord, is this the price?

Yet, though her web be broken, bonds, I know,
Slow custom frames in the strong forge of time,
Which outlast love, and will not wear with woe,
Nor break beneath the cognizance of crime.
The witch goes bare. But he, -- the father fiend,
That roams the unthrifty furrows of my days,
Yet walks the field of life; and, where he strays,
The husbandry of heaven for hell is gleaned.

Lulls are there in man's life which are not peace.
Tumults which are not triumphs. Do I take
The pause of passion for the fiend's decease?
This frost of grief hath numbed the drowsing snake;
Which yet may wake, and sting me in the heat
Of new emotions. What shall bar the door
Against the old familiar, that of yore
Came without call, and sat within my seat?

When evening brings its dim grim hour again,
And hell lets loose its dusky brood awhile,
Shall I not find him in the darkness then?
The same subservient and yet insolent smile?
The same indifferent ignominious face?
The same old sense of household horror, come
Like a tame creature, back into its home?
Meeting me, haply, in my wonted place,

With the loathed freedom of an unloved mate,
Or crouching on my pillow as of old?
Knowing I hate him, impotent in hate!
Therefore more subtle, strenuous, and bold.
Thus ancient habit will usurp young will,
And each new effort rivet the old thrall.
No matter! those who climb must count to fall,
But each new fall will prove them climbing still.

O wretched man! the body of this death
Which, groaning in the spirit, I yet bear
On to the end (so that I breathe the breath
Of its corruption, even though breathing prayer),
What shall take from me? Must I drag forever
The cold corpse of the life which I have killed
But cannot bury? Must my heart be filled
With the dry dust of every dead endeavor?

For often, at the mid of the long night,
Some devil enters into the dead clay,
And gives it life unnatural in my sight.
The dead man rises up; and roams away,
Back to the mouldered mansions of the Past:
And lights a lurid revel in the halls
Of vacant years; and lifts his voice, and calls,
Till troops of phantoms gather round him fast.

Frail gold-haired corpses, in whose eyes there lives
A strange regret too wild to let them rest:
Crowds of pale maidens, who were never wives
And infants that all died upon the breast
That suckled them. And these make revelry
Mingled with wailing all the midnight through,
Till the sad day doth with stern light renew
The toiling land, and the complaining sea.

Full well I know that in this world of ours
The dreadful Commonplace succeeds all change;
We catch at times a gleam of flying powers
That pass in storm some windy mountain range:
But, while we gaze, the cloud returns o'er all.
And each, to guide him up the devious height,
Must take, and bless, whatever earthly light
From household hearths, or shepherd fires, may fall.

This wave, that groans and writhes upon the beach,
To-morrow will submit itself to calm;
That wind that rushes, moaning, out of reach,
Will die anon beneath some breathless palm;
These tears, these sighs, these motions of the soul,
This inexpressible pining of the mind,
The stern indifferent laws of life shall bind,
And fix forever in their old control.

Behold this half-tamed universe of things!
That cannot break, nor wholly bear, its chain.
Its heart by fits grows wild: it leaps, it springs;
Then the chain galls, and kennels it again.
If man were formed with all his faculties
For sorrow, I should sorrow for him less.
Considering a life so brief, the stress
Of its short passion I might well despise:

But all man's faculties are for delight;
But all man's life is compassed with what seems
Framed for enjoyment: but from all that sight
And sense reveal a magic murmur streams
Into man's heart, which says, or seems to say,
"Be happy!" ...and the heart of man replies,
"Leave happiness to brutes: I would be wise:
Give me, not peace, but science, glory, art."

Therefore, age, sickness, and mortality
Are but the lightest portion of his pain:
Therefore, shut out from joy, incessantly
Death finds him toiling at a task that's vain.
I weep the want of all he pines to have:
I weep the loss of all he leaves behind: --
Contentment, and repose, and peace of mind,
Pawned for the purchase of a little grave:

I weep the hundred centuries of time;
I weep the millions that have squandered them
In error, doubt, anxiety, and crime,
Here, where the free birds sing from leaf and stem:
I weep...but what are tears? What I deplore
I knew not, half a hundred years ago:
And half a hundred years from hence, I know
That what I weep for I shall know no more.

The spirit of that wide and leafless wind
That wanders o'er the uncompanioned sea,
Searching for what it never seems to find,
Stirred in my hair, and moved my heart in me,
To follow it, far over land and main:
And everywhere over this earth's scarred face
The footsteps of a God I seemed to trace;
But everywhere steps of a God in pain.

If, haply, he that made this heart of mine,
Himself in sorrow walked the world erewhile,
What then am I, to marvel or repine
That I go mourning ever in the smile
Of universal nature, searching ever
The phantom of a joy which here I miss?
My heart inhabits other worlds than this,
Therefore my search is here a vain endeavor.

Methought,...(it was the midnight of my soul,
Deal midnight) that I stood on Calvary:
I found the cross, but not the Christ. The whole
Of heaven was dark: and I went bitterly
Weeping, because I found him not. Methought, ...
(It was the twilight of the dawn and mist)
I stood before the sepulchre of Christ:
The sepulchre was vacant, void of aught

Saving the cere-clothes of the grave, which were
Upfolden straight and empty: bitterly
Weeping I stood, because not even there
I found him. Then a voice spake unto me,
"Whom seekest thou? Why is thy heart dismayed?
Jesus of Nazareth, he is not here:
Behold, the Lord is risen. Be of cheer:
Approach, behold the place where he was laid."

And while he spake, the sunrise smote the world.
"Go forth, and tell thy brethren," spake the voice;
"The Lord is risen." Suddenly unfurled,
The whole unclouded Orient did rejoice
In glory. Wherefore should I mourn that here
My heart feels vacant of what most it needs?
Christ is arisen! ...the cere-clothes and the weeds
That wrapped him lying in this sepulchre

Of earth, he hath abandoned; being gone
Back into heaven, where we too must turn
Our gaze to find him. Pour, O risen Sun
Of Righteousness, the light for which I yearn
Upon the darkness of this mortal hour,
This tract of night in which I walk forlorn:
Behold the night is now far spent. The morn
Breaks, breaking from afar through a night shower.





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