THE AGES. I.
When to the common rest that crowns our days,Called in the noon of life, the good man goes,Or full of years, and ripe in wisdom, laysHis silver temples in their last repose;When, o'er the buds of youth, the death-wind blows,And blights the fairest; when our bitter tearsStream, as the eyes of those that love us close,We think on what they were, with many fearsLest goodness die with them, and leave the coming years:II.
And therefore, to our hearts, the days gone by,—When lived the honoured sage whose death we wept,And the soft virtues beamed from many an eye,And beat in many a heart that long has slept,—Like spots of earth where angel-feet have stepped—Are holy; and high-dreaming bards have toldOf times when worth was crowned, and faith was kept,Ere friendship grew a snare, or love waxed cold—Those pure and happy times—the golden days of old.III.
Peace to the just man's memory,—let it grow[Page 2]Greener with years, and blossom through the flightOf ages; let the mimic canvas showHis calm benevolent features; let the lightStream on his deeds of love, that shunned the sightOf all but heaven, and in the book of fame,The glorious record of his virtues write,And hold it up to men, and bid them claimA palm like his, and catch from him the hallowed flame.IV.
But oh, despair not of their fate who riseTo dwell upon the earth when we withdraw!Lo! the same shaft by which the righteous dies,Strikes through the wretch that scoffed at mercy's law,And trode his brethren down, and felt no aweOf Him who will avenge them. Stainless worth,Such as the sternest age of virtue saw,Ripens, meanwhile, till time shall call it forthFrom the low modest shade, to light and bless the earth.V.
Has Nature, in her calm, majestic marchFaltered with age at last? does the bright sunGrow dim in heaven? or, in their far blue arch,Sparkle the crowd of stars, when day is done,Less brightly? when the dew-lipped Spring comes on,Breathes she with airs less soft, or scents the skyWith flowers less fair than when her reign begun?Does prodigal Autumn, to our age, denyThe plenty that once swelled beneath his sober eye?VI.
Look on this beautiful world, and read the truthIn her fair page; see, every season bringsNew change, to her, of everlasting youth;Still the green soil, with joyous living things,Swarms, the wide air is full of joyous wings,[Page 3]And myriads, still, are happy in the sleepOf ocean's azure gulfs, and where he flingsThe restless surge. Eternal Love doth keepIn his complacent arms, the earth, the air, the deep.VII.
Will then the merciful One, who stamped our raceWith his own image, and who gave them swayO'er earth, and the glad dwellers on her face,Now that our swarming nations far awayAre spread, where'er the moist earth drinks the day,Forget the ancient care that taught and nursedHis latest offspring? will he quench the rayInfused by his own forming smile at first,And leave a work so fair all blighted and accursed?...