This dainty instrument, this tabletoy

This dainty instrument, this table--toy,
Might seem best fitted for the use and joy
Of some high Ladie in old gallant times,
Or gay--learned weaver of Provencal rhymes:
With such a pen did sweet Francesca trace
Some hurried lines beneath her blushing face,
And hid them in her lover's doublet--sleeve,
To let him know, that, ere to--morrow eve,
They would enjoy the luscious summer--weather,
And read their favo'rite Launcelot together;
With such a pen did tremu'lous Mary write
To bid good Chat'elet come and play to--night;
And so we might go on for hours, and fold
Our colo'ring fancies round this antient gold;
But here one stern Reality appears,
And leaves no place for other dreams or tears,--
The simple record, that, with this one pen,
Have hundreds of our brothers, fellow--men,
Signed by their names the awfullest decree
That between them and all the world could be;
Those few small letters, when thus written, said--
``The writer, though he live, is living dead;
``The world of man, of beauty, and of bloom,
``This visi'ble earth, but serves him for a tomb,--
``He feels no more its glories or its gains,
``His soul can only know its purging pains,--
``Here from the trails of sin however sure,
``He needs that suffe'ring to be perfect--pure.''
Think of the fingers that have dared to hold
This fateful relic! Some with grasp so bold,
You would believe that nothing but the pride
Of glory won, ambition satisfied,
Or joy of meed long--toiled for, could command
Such full composure in an aged hand:
And yet the most of those, who hither brought
Their Being's sacrifice were men well taught
In the world's wisdom, men who had lived through
All that life gives to suffer and to do;
Who had grown old in wars of spi'rit and arm,
But found in Victo'ry no victorious charm
Against the clouding armament of Ill,
Licenst on earth by God's unsounded will.
Some might be young,--by strange heart--prescience led
To know that Life is but a sick--man's bed,
On which, with aching head and limbs, we lie
Through the hot Night of our humanity,
Waiting for Death, our Lucifer,--so blest
Is he, through whose deep--drugged and senseless rest
No Dreams can pierce,--and thus they did but crave
To seek this stupor in the cloiste'ral grave;
These held the Pen, as valor holds a sword
Against the foe that doubted of its word;
Yet others still might be,--young too and fair,
Strong too, but only strengthened by Despair,
Who,--when that closing moment came at last,
That one thin line, which lay between the past
And the unknown bleak Future,--that deep trench,
Which now leapt over, by a fearful wrench
Of all most natu'ral instincts, held the soul,
Once the world's freeman, once without controul
Working and wande'ring, bound to a new law,
Captive in Faith and prisoner in Awe,--
Caught up this Pen, and quiveringly traced
The names, that thence could never be effaced,
With moveless eyes and pale--blue lips convulst,
As if the salient blood were all repulst
To its free source,--as if within their clutch
They had a poisoned dagger, and its touch
Was on their living flesh;--yet they, even they,
Found in these precincts Joy, we will not say,
But, what is better, Peace;--they askt no more;
Happy the wave that breaks upon the shore!

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