Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MORAL ALCHEMY, by HORACE SMITH



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MORAL ALCHEMY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The toils of alchemists, whose vain pursuit
Last Line: And man's most welcome hymn is grateful cheerfulness.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Alchemy & Alchemists; Grief; Morality; Nature; Sorrow; Sadness; Ethics


THE toils of Alchemists, whose vain pursuit
Sought to transmute
Dross into gold, -- their secrets and their store
Of mystic lore,
What to the jibing modern do they seem?
An ignis fatuus chase, a phantasy, a dream!

Yet for enlightened moral Alchemists
There still exists
A philosophic stone, whose magic spell
No tongue may tell,
Which renovates the soul's decaying health,
And what it touches turns to purest mental wealth.

This secret is revealed in every trace
Of Nature's face,
Whose seeming frown invariably tends
To smiling ends,
Transmuting ills into their opposite,
And all that shocks the sense to subsequent delight.

Seems Earth unlovely in her robe of snow?
Then look below,
Where Nature in her subterranean Ark,
Silent and dark,
Already has each floral germ unfurled
That shall revive and clothe the dead and naked world.

Behold those perished flowers to earth consigned --
They, like mankind,
Seek in their grave new birth. By nature's power
Each in its hour
Clothed in new beauty, from its tomb shall spring,
And from its tube or chalice heavenward incense fling.

Laboratories of a wider fold
I now behold,
Where are prepared the harvests yet unborn
Of wine, oil, corn. --
In those mute rayless banquet-halls I see
Myriads of coming feasts with all their revelry.

Yon teeming and minuter cells enclose
The embryos
Of fruits and seeds, food for the feathered race,
Whose chaunted grace,
Swelling in choral gratitude on high,
Shall with thanksgiving anthems melodize the sky.

And what materials, mystic Alchemist!
Dost thou enlist
To fabricate this ever-varied feast,
For man, bird, beast?
Whence the life, plenty, music, beauty, bloom?
From silence, languor, death, unsightliness and gloom!

From Nature's magic hand whose touch makes sadness
Eventual gladness,
The reverent moral Alchemist may learn
The art to turn
Fate's roughest, hardest, most forbidding dross,
Into the mental gold that knows not change or loss.

Lose we a valued friend? -- To soothe our woe
Let us bestow
On those who still survive an added love,
So shall we prove,
Howe'er the dear departed we deplore,
In friendship's sum and substance no diminished store.

Lose we our health? -- Now may we fully know
What thanks we owe
For our sane years, perchance of lengthened scope;
Now does our hope
Point to the day when sickness, taking flight,
Shall make us better feel health's exquisite delight.

In losing fortune, many a lucky elf
Has found himself. --
As all our moral bitters are design'd
To brace the mind,
And renovate its healthy tone, the wise
Their sorest trials hail as blessings in disguise.

There is no gloom on earth; for God above
Chastens in love,
Transmuting sorrows into golden joy
Free from alloy,
His dearest attribute is still to bless,
And man's most welcome hymn is grateful cheerfulness.





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