Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HYMNS OF A HERMIT: 6, by JOHN STERLING (1806-1844)



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HYMNS OF A HERMIT: 6, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Can man, o god! The tale of man repeat
Last Line: Goes forth to toils heroic manifold!
Subject(s): Hermits


CAN man, O God! the tale of man repeat,
Nor feel his bosom heave with livelier bound?
Through all we are the swelling pulse must beat
At thought of all we are, of all things round:
Our inmost selves the straining vision meet,
And memory wakes from slumber's cave profound:
And, like a rock upon a sunny plain,
The past amid thy light is seen again.

Ah! little sphere of rosy childhood's hour,
Itself so weak, and yet foreshowing all!
Unopen'd world of self-evolving power,
That now but hears the instant's tiny call!
Within its dewdrop life, its folded flower,
Distress and strife the thoughtless heart enthrall;
And stirrings big with man's unmeasured hope
Have scarcely strength against one pang to cope.

Bewildering, cloudy dawn! then pass from view
The first faint lines of mortal being's course;
Then wakes the will, and fiercely grasps a clue,
And wondering feels it snapp'd by headlong force,
And sad and weeping grows a child anew,
Till joy comes back from life's unfailing source --
New aims, new thoughts, new passions take their turn,
And still the extinguish'd flame again will burn.

What gropings blind to leave the common way!
What yearnings vain that find no end reveal'd!
What hopeless war, and feeling's idle play!
What wounds that pierce through pride's phantasmal play?
A thousand objects woo'd and thrown away!
And idols dear that no response will yield!
And so within one bosom's living cell
A fiendish foe and helpless victim dwell.

Oh, gorgeous dreams, and wing-borne flight of youth!
That thinks by scorning earth to win the skies;
Forebodings dim of visionary truth,
That like a beast pursued before us flies;
Insane delight in monstrous forms uncouth,
That thence perchance some prophet ghost may rise;
Blind love of light, and craving hate of rest! --
How far our strangest world is in the breast!

Abounding pictures, bright with morn and joy,
Of all the endless beings round us known,
Bewilder, vex, intoxicate, and cloy, --
A land of bliss how near, yet not our own!
All things so fair, each sense they needs employ,
Yet mid them all the spirit wastes alone;
So many, lovely, large, and sweet they seem.
As if to prove the whole is only dream.

Fair visions all! and, mid the train of things,
How-strange the sway the fairest shapes have won!
From them distraction, folly, rapture springs,
And life's true rapture seems but now begun,
For mad we seek the joy that passion brings
To hearts by inmost treacheries all undone,
Though love's concealing veil is dark and stern,
Nor e'er did eyes profane its mystery learn.

So forward roll the years with wo and bliss,
Mid act, and deed, and thought, and lone despair;
And 'twixt the arduous That and easy This,
We fain the trial more than man can bear.
Still Conscience stabs and bleeds; Temptation's kiss
Still sucks our purest life, and taints the air;
His feet with blood, his own and others', red,
Ambition climbs the unstable mountain-head.

But sickening hours and weariness of breath,
And eyes that cannot brook to see the day,
And dreams that shuddering hail the name of death,
And fancies thin subdued by dull decay, --
All these, O God! thy servant Conscience saith,
Are surely sent by Thee -- thy word obey;
The world of man so bright, and soul so strong,
To man are shown defaced by human wrong.

And thus, by inward act and outward led,
We know the things we are if loosed from thee;
How blind as rocks, and weak as branches dead,
And vain and fierce, to show us nobly free,
To leave thy paths in desert wilds we fled,
And hoped no longer thine -- our own to be;
So sinking down from fancied all to naught,
One grain of dust was left by misery taught.

That speck, O Father! still to thee was dear --
A living relic capable of good;
And bruised and crush'd by wo, and shame, and fear,
Arose again from earth, and upright stood.
Thy spirit still was there, not now severe,
And fed the yearning heart with loving food,
Till brave and clear, discerning all the past,
It knew that peace and hope were gain'd at last.

Now all confusion spent, and battles o'er,
Are seen as leading on to endless rest,
The world obscure and distant now no more,
With sights of truthful gladness fills the breast;
And love, so false and foul a name before,
With countless joys the wounded heart has blest:
And thus, O God! thy child serene and bold
Goes forth to toils heroic manifold!





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