Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WANDERER: 6. PALINGENSIS: EPILOGUE, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Change without term, and strife without result
Last Line: Thy tale is true, however weakly worded.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Travel; Journeys; Trips


CHANGE without term, and strife without result,
Persons that pass, and shadows that remain,
One strange, impenetrable, and occult
Suggestion of a hope, that's hoped in vain,
Behold the world man reigns in! His delight
Deceives; his power fatigues; his strength is brief;
Even his religion presupposes grief,
His morning is not certain of the night.

I have beheld, without regret, the trunk,
Which propped three hundred summers on its boughs,
Which housed, of old, the merry bird, and drunk
The divine dews of air, and gave carouse
To the free winds of heaven, lie overthrown
Amidst the trees which its own fruitage bore.
Its promise is fulfilled. It is no more,
But it hath been. Its destiny is done.

But the wild ash, that springs above the marsh!
Strong and superb it rises o'er the wild.
Vain energy of being! For the harsh
And fetid ooze already hath defiled
The roots whose sap it lives by. Heaven doth give
No blessing to its boughs. The humid wind
Rots them. The vapors warp them. All declined,
Its life hath ceased, ere it hath ceased to live.

Child of the waste, and nursling of the pest!
A kindred fate hath watched and wept thine own.
Thine epitaph is written in my breast.
Years change. Day treads out day. For me alone
No change is nurst within the brooding bud.
Satiety I have not known, and yet,
I wither in the void of life, and fret
A futile time, with an unpeaceful blood.

The days are all too long, the nights too fair,
And too much redness satiates the rose.
O blissful season! blest and balmy air!
Waves! moonlight! silence! years of lost repose!
Bowers and shades that echoed to the tread
Of young Romance! birds that, from woodland bars,
Sang, serenading forth the timid stars!
Youth! beauty! passion! whither are ye fled?

I wait, and long have waited, and yet wait
The coming of the footsteps which ye told
My heart to watch for. Yet the hour is late,
And ye have left me. Did they lie, of old,
Your thousand voices prophesying bliss?
That troubled all the current of a fate
Which else might have been peaceful! I await
The thing I have not found, yet would not miss.

To face out childhood, and grow up to man,
To make a noise, and question all one sees,
The astral orbit of a world to span,
And, after a few days, to take one's ease
Under the graveyard grasses, -- this, my friend,
Appears to me a thing too strange but what
I wish to know its meaning. I would not
Depart before I have perceived the end.

And I would know what, here below the sun,
He is, and what his place, that being which seems
The end of all means, yet the means of none;
Who searches and combines, aspires and dreams;
Seeking new things with ever the same hope,
Seeking new hopes in ever the same thing;
A king without the powers of a king,
A beggar with a kingdom in his scope;

Who only sees in what he hath attained
The means whereby he may attain to more;
Who only finds in that which he hath gained
The want of what he did not want before;
Whom weakness strengthens; who is soothed by strife;
Who seeks new joys to prize the absent most;
Still from illusion to illusion tost,
Himself the great illusion of his life!

Why is it, all deep emotion makes us sigh
To quit this world? What better thing than death
Can follow after rapture? "Let us die!"
This is the last wish on the lover's breath.
If thou wouldst live, content thee. To enjoy
Is to begin to perish. What is bliss,
But transit to some other state from this?
That which we live for must our life destroy.

Hast thou not ever longed for death? If not,
Not yet thy life's experience is attained.
But if thy days be favored, if thy lot
Be easy, if hope's summit thou hast gained,
Die! Death is the sole future left to thee.
The knowledge of this life is bound, for each,
By his own powers. Death lies between our reach
And all which, living, we have lived to be.

Death is no evil, since it comes to all.
For evil is the exception, not the law.
What is it in the tempest that doth call
Our spirits down its pathways? or the awe
Of that abyss and solitude beneath
High mountain passes, which doth aye attract
Such strange desire? or in the cataract?
The sea? It is the sentiment of death.

If life no more than a mere seeming be,
Away with the imposture! If it tend
To nothing, and to have lived seemingly
Prove to be vain and futile in the end,
Then let us die, that we may really live,
Or cease to feign to live. Let us possess
Lasting delight, or lasting quietness.
What life desires, death, only death, can give.

Where are the violets of vanisht years?
The sunsets Rachel watched by Laban's well?
Where is Fidele's face? where Juliet's tears?
There comes no answer. There is none to tell
What we go questioning, till our mouths are stopt
By a clod of earth. Ask of the plangent sea,
The wild wind wailing through the leafless tree,
Ask of the meteor from the midnight dropt!

Come, Death, and bring the beauty back to all!
I do not seek thee, but I will not shun.
And let thy coming be at even-fall,
Thy pathway through the setting of the sun.
And let us go together, I with thee,
What time the lamps in Eden bowers are lit,
And Melancholy, all alone, doth sit
By the wide marge of some neglected sea.


ONE hour of English twilight once again!
Lo! in the rosy regions of the dew
The confines of the world begin to wane,
And Hesper doth his trembling lamp renew.
Now is the inauguration of the night!
Nature's release to wearied earth and skies!
Sweet truce of Care! Labor's brief armistice!
Best, loveliest interlude of dark and light!

The rookery, babbling in the sunken wood;
The watchdog, barking from the distant farm,
The dim light fading from the horned flood,
That winds the woodland in its silver arm;
The massed and immemorial oaks, whose leaves
Are husht in yonder heathy dells below;
The fragrance of the meadows that I know;
The bat, that now his wavering circle weaves

Around these antique towers, and casements deep
That glimmer, through the ivy and the rose,
To the faint moon, which doth begin to creep
Out of the inmost heart o' the heavens' repose,
To wander, all night long, without a sound,
Above the fields my feet oft wandered once;
The larches tall and dark, which do ensconce
The little churchyard, in whose hallowed ground

Sleep half the simple friends my childhood knew:
All, all the sounds and sights of this blest hour,
Sinking within my heart of hearts, like dew,
Revive that so long parcht and drooping flower
Of youth, the world's hot breath for many years
Hath burned and withered; till once more, once more,
The revelation and the dream of yore
Return to solace these sad eyes with tears!

Where now, alone, a solitary man,
I pace once more the pathways of my home,
Light-hearted, and together, once we ran,
I, and the infant guide that used to roam
With me, the meads and meadow-banks among,
At dusk and dawn. How light those little feet
Danced through the dancing grass and waving wheat,
Where'er, far off, we heard the cuckoo's song!

I know now, little Ella, what the flowers
Said to you then, to make your cheek so pale;
And why the blackbird in our laurel bowers
Spake to you, only; and the poor, pink snail
Feared less your steps than those of the May-shower.
It was not strange these creatures loved you so,
And told you all. 'T was not so long ago
You were, yourself, a bird, or else a flower.

And, little Ella, you were pale, because
So soon you were to die. I know that now.
And why there ever seemed a sort of gauze
Over your deep blue eyes, and sad young brow.
You were too good to grow up, Ella, you,
And be a woman such as I have known!
And so upon your heart they put a stone,
And left you, dear, amongst the flowers and dew.

God's will is good. He knew what would be best.
I will not weep thee, darling, any more;
I have not wept thee; though my heart, opprest
With many memories, for thy sake is sore.
God's will is good, and great His wisdom is.
Thou wast a little star, and thou didst shine
Upon my cradle; but thou wast not mine,
Thou wast not mine, my darling; thou art His.

My morning star! twin sister of my soul!
My little elfin friend from Fairy-Land!
Whose memory is yet innocent of the whole
Of that which makes me doubly need thy hand,
Thy little guiding hand so soon withdrawn!
Here where I find so little like to thee.
For thou wert as the breath of dawn to me,
Starry, and pure, and brief as is the dawn.

Thy knight was I, and thou my Fairy Queen.
('T was in the days of love and chivalry!)
And thou didst hide thee in a bower of green.
But thou so well hast hidden thee, that I
Have never found thee since. And thou didst set
Many a task, and quest, and high emprise,
Ere I should win my guerdon from thine eyes,
So many, and so many, that not yet

My tasks are ended or my wanderings o'er.
But some day thou wilt send across the main
A magic bark, and I shall quit this shore
Of care, and find thee, in thy bower, again;
And thou wilt say, "My brother, hast thou found
Our home, at last?" ...Whilst I, in answer, Sweet,
Shall heap my life's last booty at thy feet,
And bare my breast with many a bleeding wound.

The spoils of time! the trophies of the world!
The keys of conquered towns, and captived kings;
And many a broken sword, and banner furled;
The heads of giants, and swart Soldan's rings;
And many a maiden's scarf; and many a wand
Of baffled wizard; many an amulet;
And many a shield, with mine own heart's blood wet;
And jewels, dear, from many a distant land!

God's will is good. He knew what would be best.
I thought last year to pass away from life.
I thought my toils were ended, and my quest
Completed, and my part in this world's strife
Accomplisht. And, behold! about me now
There rest the gloom, the glory, and the awe
Of a new martyrdom, no dreams foresaw;
And the thorn-crown hath blossomed on my brow.

A martyrdom, but with a martyr's joy!
A hope I never hoped for! and a sense
That nothing henceforth ever can destroy: --
Within my breast the serene confidence
Of mercy in the misery of things;
Of meaning in the mystery of all;
Of blessing in whatever may befall;
Of rest predestined to all wanderings.

How sweet, with thee, my sister, to renew,
In lands of light, the search for those bright birds
Of plumage so ethereal in its hue,
And music sweeter than all mortal words,
Which some good angel to our childhood sent
With messages from Paradisal flowers,
So lately left, the scent of Eden bowers
Yet lingered in our hair, where'er we went!

Now, they are all fled by, this many a year,
Adown the viewless valleys of the wind,
And never more will cross this hemisphere,
Those birds of passage! Never shall I find,
Dropt from the flight, you followed, dear, so far
That you will never come again, I know,
One plumelet on the paths by which I go,
Missing thy light there, O my morning star!

Soft, over all, doth ancient twilight cast
Her dim gray robe, vague as futurity,
And sad and hoary as the ghostly past,
Till earth assumes invisibility.
I hear the night-bird's note, wherewith she starts
The bee within the blossom from his dream.
A light, like hope, from yonder pane doth beam,
And now, like hope, it silently departs.

Hush! from the clock within you dark church spire,
Another hour broke, clanging, out of time,
And passed me, throbbing like my own desire,
Into the seven-fold heavens. And now, the chime
Over the vale, the woodland, and the river,
More faint, more far, a quivering echo, strays
From that small twelve-houred circle of our days,
And spreads, and spreads, to the great round Forever.

Pensive, the sombre ivied porch I pass.
Through the dark hall, the sound of my own feet
Pursues me, like the ghost of what I was,
Into this silent chamber, where I meet
From wall to wall the fathers of my race;
The pictures of the past from wall to wall;
Wandering o'er which, my wistful glances fall,
To sink, at last, on little Ella's face.

This is my home. And hither I return,
After much wandering in the ways of men,
Weary but not outworn. Here, with her urn
Shall Memory come, and be my denizen.
And blue-eyed Hope shall through the window look,
And lean her fair child's face into the room,
What time the hawthorn buds anew, and bloom
The bright forget-me-nots beside the brook.

Father of all which is, or yet may be,
Ere to the pillow which my childhood prest
This night restores my troubled brows, by Thee
May this, the last prayer I have learned, be blest!
Grant me to live that I may need from life
No more than life hath given me, and to die
That I may give to death no more than I
Have long abandoned. And, if toil and strife

Yet in the portion of my days must be,
Firm be my faith, and quiet be my heart!
That so my work may with my will agree,
And strength be mine to calmly fill my part
In Nature's purpose, questioning not the end.
For love is more than raiment or than food.
Shall I not take the evil with the good?
Blessed to me be all which thou dost send!

Nor blest the least, recalling what hath been,
The knowledge of the evil I have known
Without me, and within me. Since, to lean
Upon a strength far mightier than my own
Such knowledge brought me. In whose strength I stand,
Firmly upheld, even though, in ruin hurled,
The fixed foundations of this rolling world
Should topple at the waving of Thy hand.


HAIL thou! sole Muse that, in an age of toil,
Of all the old Uranian sisterhood,
Art left to light us o'er the furrowed soil
Of this laborious star! Muse, unsubdued
By that strong hand which hath in ruin razed
The temples of dread Jove! Muse most divine,
Albeit but ill by these pale lips of mine,
In days degenerate, first named and praised!

Now the high airy kingdoms of the day
Hyperion holds not. The disloyal seas
Have broken from Poseidon's purple sway.
Through Heaven's harmonious golden palaces
No more the silver-sandalled messengers
Slide to sweet airs. Upon Olympus' brow
The gods' great citadel is vacant now.
And not a lute to Love in Lesbos stirs.

But thou wert born not on the Forked Hill,
Nor fed from Hybla's hives by Attic bees,
Nor on the honey Cretan oaks distil,
Or once distilled, when gods had homes in trees,
And young Apollo knew thee not. Yet thou
With Ceres wast, when the pale mother trod
The gloomy pathway to the nether god,
And spake with that dim Power which dwells below

The surface of whatever, where he wends,
The circling sun illumineth. And thou
Wast aye a friend to man. Of all his friends,
Perchance the friend most needed: needed now
Yet more than ever; in a complex age
Which changes while we gaze at it: from heaven
Seeking a sign, and finding no sign given,
And questioning Life's worn book at every page.

Nor ever yet, was song, untaught by thee,
Worthy to live immortally with man.
Wherefore, divine Experience, bend on me
Thy deep and searching eyes. Since life began,
Meek at thy mighty knees, though oft reproved,
I have sat, spelling out slow time with tears,
Where down the riddling alphabet of years
Thy guiding finger o'er the horn-book moved.

And I have put together many names:
Sorrow, and Joy, and Hope, and Memory,
And Love, and Anger; as an infant frames
The initials of a language wherein he
In manhood must with men communicate.
And oft, the words were hard to understand,
Harder to utter; still the solemn hand
Would pause, and point, and wait, and move, and wait;

Till words grew into language. Language grew
To utterance. Utterance into music passed.
I sang of all I learned, and all I knew.
And, looking upward in thy face, at last,
Beheld it flusht, as when a mother hears
Her infant feebly singing his first hymn,
And dreams she sees, albeit unseen of him,
Some radiant listener lured from other spheres.

Such songs have been my solace many a while
And oft, when other solace I had none,
From grief which lay heart-broken on a smile,
And joy that glittered like a winter sun,
And froze, and fevered: from the great man's scorn,
The mean man's envy; friends' unfriendliness;
Love's want of human kindness, and the stress
Of nights that hoped for nothing from the morn.

From these, and worse than these, did song unbar
A refuge through the ivory gate of dreams,
Wherein my spirit grew familiar
With spirits that glide by spiritual streams;
Song hath, for me, unsealed the genii sleeping
Under mid seas, and lured out of their lair
Beings with wondering eyes, and wondrous hair,
Tame to my feet at twilight softly creeping.

And song hath been my cymbal in the hours
Of triumph; when behind me, far away,
Lay Egypt, with its plagues; and, by strange powers,
Not mine, upheld, life's heaped ocean lay
On either side a passage for my soul.
A passage to the Land of Promise! trod
By giants, where the chosen race of God
Shall find, at last, its long predestined goal.

The breath which stirred these songs a little while
Has fleeted by; and, with it, fleeted too
The days I sought, thus singing, to beguile
Of thoughts that spring like weeds, which will creep through
The blank interstices of ruined fanes,
Where Youth, adoring, sacrificed -- its heart,
To gods forever fallen.
Now, we part,
My songs and I. We part, and what remains?

Perchance an echo, and perchance no more,
Harp of my heart, from thy brief music dwells
In hearts, unknown, afar: as the wide shore
Retains within its hundred hollow shells
The voices of the spirits of the foam,
Which murmur in the language of the deeps,
Though haply far away, to one who keeps
Such ocean wealth to grace an inland home.

Within these cells of song, how frail so-e'er,
The vast and wandering tides of human life
Have murmured once; and left, in passing, there,
Faint echoes of the tumult and the strife
Of the great ocean of humanity.
Fairies have danced within these hollow caves,
And Memory mused above the moonlit waves,
And Youth, the lover, here hath lingered by.

I sung of life, as life would have me sing,
Of falsehood, and of evil, and of wrong;
For many a false, and many an evil thing,
I found in life; and by my life my song
Was shaped within me while I sung: I sung
Of Good, for good is life's predestined end;
Of Sorrow, for I knew her as my friend;
Of Love, for by his hand my harp was strung.

I have not scrawled above the tomb of Youth
Those lying epitaphs, which represent
All virtues, and all excellence, save truth.
'T were easy, thus, to have been eloquent,
If I had held the fashion of the age
Which loves to hear its sounding flattery
Blown by all dusty winds from sky to sky,
And find its praises blotting every page.

And yet, the Poet and the Age are one.
And if the age be flawed, howe'er minute,
Deep through the poet's heart that rent doth run,
And shakes and mars the music of his lute.
It is not that his sympathy is less
With all that lives and all that feels around him,
But that so close a sympathy hath bound him
To these, that he must utter their distress.

We build the bridge, and swing the wondrous wire,
Bind with an iron hoop the rolling world;
Sport with the spirits of the ductile fire;
And leave our spells upon the vapor furled;
And cry -- Behold the progress of the time!
Yet are we tending in an unknown land,
Whither, we neither ask nor understand,
Far from the peace of our unvalued prime!

And Strength and Force, the fiends which minister
To some new-risen Power beyond our span,
On either hand, with hook and nail, confer
To rivet the Promethean heart of man
Under the ravening and relentless beak
Of unappeasable Desire, which yet
The very vitals of the age doth fret.
The limbs are mighty, but the heart is weak.

Writhe on, Prometheus! or whate'er thou art,
Thou giant sufferer, groaning for a race
Thou canst not save, for all thy bleeding heart!
Thy wail my harp hath wakened; and my place
Shall be beside thee; and my blessing be
On all that makes me worthy yet to share
Thy lonely martyrdom, and with thee wear
That crown of anguish given to poets, and thee!

If to have wept, and wildly; to have loved
Till love grew torture; to have grieved till grief
Became a part of life; if to have proved
The want of all things; if, to draw relief
From poesy for passion, this avail,
I lack no title to my crown. The sea
Hath sent up nymphs for my society,
The mountains have been moved to hear my wail.

Nature and man were children long ago
In glad simplicity of heart and speech.
Now they are strangers to each other's woe;
And each hath language different from each.
The simplest songs sound sweetest and most good.
The simplest loves are the most loving ones.
Happier were song's forefathers than their sons.
And Homer sung as Byron never could.

But Homer cannot come again: nor ever
The quiet of the age in which he sung.
This age is one of tumult and endeavor,
And by a fevered hand its harps are strung.
And yet, I do not quarrel with the time;
Nor quarrel with the tumult of my heart,
Which of the tumult of the age is part;
Because its very weakness is sublime.

The passions are as winds on the wide sea
Of human life; which do impel the sails
Of man's great enterprise, whate'er that be.
The reckless helmsman, caught upon these gales,
Under the roaring gulfs goes down aghast.
The prudent pilot to the steadying breeze
Sparely gives head; and, over perilous seas,
Drops anchor 'mid the Fortunate Isles, at last.

We pray against the tempest and the strife,
The storm, the whirlwind, and the troublous hour,
Which vex the fretful element of life.
Me rather save, O dread disposing Power,
From those dead calms, that flat and hopeless lull,
In which the dull sea rots around the bark,
And nothing moves save the surecreeping dark,
That slowly settles o'er an idle hull.

For in the storm, the tumult, and the stir
That shakes the soul, man finds his power and place
Among the elements. Deeps with deeps confer,
And Nature's secret settles in her face.
Let ocean to his inmost caves be stirred;
Let the wild light be smitten from the cloud.
The decks may reel, the masts be snapt and bowed,
But God hath spoken out, and man hath heard!

Farewell, you lost inhabitants of my mind,
You fair ephemerals of faded hours!
Farewell, you lands of exile, whence each wind
Of memory steals with fragrance over flowers!
Farewell, Cordelia! Ella! ... But not so
Farewell the memories of you which I have
Till strangers shall be sitting on my grave
And babbling of the dust which lies below.

Blessed the man whose life, how sad soe'er,
Hath felt the presence, and yet keeps the trace
Of one pure woman! With religious care
We close the doors, with reverent feet we pace
The vacant chambers, where, of yore, a Queen
One night hath rested. From my Past's pale walls
Yet gleam the unfaded fair memorials
Of her whose beauty there, awhile, hath been.

She passed, into my youth, at its nighttime,
When low the lamplight, and the music husht.
She passed and passed away. Some broken rhyme
Scrawled on the panel or the pane: the crusht
And faded rose she dropped: the page she turned
And finished not: the ribbon or the knot
That fluttered from her ... Stranger, harm them not!
I keep these sacred relics undiscerned.

Men's truths are often lies, and women's lies
Often the setting of a truth most tender
In an unconscious poesy. The child cries
To clutch the star that lights its rosy splendor
In airy Edens of the west afar.
"Ah, folly!" sighs the father, o'er his book.
"Millions of miles above thy follish nook
Of infantile desire, the Hesperus-star

"Descends not, child, to twinkle on thy cot."
Then readjusts his blind-wise spectacles,
While tears to sobs are changing, were it not
The mother, with those tender syllables
Which even Dutch mothers can make musical too,
Murmurs, "Sleep, sleep, my little one! and I
Will pluck thy star for thee, and by and by
Lay it upon thy pillow bright with dew."

And the child sleeps, and dreams of stars whose light
Beams in his own bright eyes when he awakes.
So sleep! so dream! If aught I read aright
That star, poor babe, which o'er thy cradle shakes,
Thy fate may fall, in after years, to be
That other child that, like thee, loves the star,
And, like thee, weeps to find it all so far,
Feeling its force in his nativity: --

That other infant, all as weak, as wild,
As passionate, and as helpless, as thou art,
Whom men will call a Poet (Poet, or child,
The star is still so distant from the heart!)
If so, heaven grant that thou mayst find at last,
Since such there are, some woman, whose sweet smile,
Pitying, may thy fond fancy yet beguile
To dream the star, which thou hast sought, thou hast!

For men, if thou shouldst heed what they may say,
Will break thy heart, or leave thee, like themselves
No heart for breaking. Wherefore I do pray
My book may lie upon no learned shelves,
But that in some deep summer eve, perchance,
Some woman, melancholy-eyed, and pale,
Whose heart, like mine, hath suffered, may this tale
Read by the soft light of her own romance.

Go forth over the wide world, Song of mine!
As Noah's dove out of his bosom flew
Over the desolate, vast, and wandering brine.
Seek thou thy nest afar. Thy plaint renew
From heart to heart, and on from land to land
Fly boldly, till thou find that unknown friend
Whose face, in dreams, above my own doth bend,
Then tell that spirit what it will understand,

Why men can tell to strangers all the tale
From friends reserved. And tell that spirit, my Song,
Wherefore I have not faltered to unveil
The cryptic forms of error and of wrong.
And say, I suffered more than I recorded,
That each man's life is all men's lesson. Say,
And let the world believe thee, as it may,
Thy tale is true, however weakly worded.

Discover our poem explanations - click here!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net