The Drop of Ambrosia

" Whither away? whither away,
With thine eyes through the distance looking so keen?
The road is narrow, and is not long;
And if thou wouldst but awhile delay,
I would show thee sights thou hast not seen.
And thou shouldst hear a voice of song,
And thou shouldst learn of things unknown,
And live a double and fuller life.
Whither away? I prithee stay, —
There are angels near; thou'rt not alone —
The very air is with beauty rife.
The night is lovely, fair is the day,
Why this hurry to travel away,
To close thy journey, to shut thy book?
Why at the end wilt thou ever look?
Why on the tide wilt thou ever think,
And neglect the flowrets on the brink?"

He said, in answer to my cries,
" Let me alone, nor vex my soul;
I've set my mind on a glittering prize
That I see midway towards the goal.
It shines, 'mid cloud on the mountain-top,
A bright, divine, ambrosial drop.
Sad, till I grasp it, the time appears;
Into hours weeks I'd pack,
Compress the lingering drawling years
To months, and never wish them back.
Why should I stay? What boots delay?
What do I care for an angel's song?
For the stars of night, or the flowers of day,
When lingering would the hours prolong?
Let me alone: my mind and heart
Are full of a joy thou canst not see,
And each impediment is pain;
Thy very talk is grief to me.
Let me away. Why should I stay,
Wasting time by answering thee?"

" Already," said I, " thy prime is past,
Thy flush of youth, thy warmth of noon,
And many delights which the sunshine cast,
Must wither away beneath the moon.
The path thou goest is short at best;
And between thine eyes and the bliss they crave,
To trip thy feet in their course so fleet,
May there not be an open grave?
Why wilt thou hurry towards the end?
There are pleasant fields on the highway-side,
Bowers whence the hymns of Love ascend,
And rivers rolling a joyous tide,
In which to lave the weary limbs
Is bliss beyond the ambrosial drop,
Which, far away, 'mid storm and dark,
Thou seest upon the mountain-top.
Straight is the path to the yawning tomb;
But we may linger on the road,
And turn to the left, and turn to the right,
To enjoy the kindly gifts of God.
I would not live my life so soon,
I would not spend it on one desire,
Nor in such fearful haste as thine
Exhaust the fuel of its fire."

Vain was my speech: he closed his ears —
Straight on he rushed, nor looked behind.
He saw afar his glittering star,
The prize for which his spirit pined.
On every side were stars as fair —
Fairer, I thought; and drops of joy,
Divinest given to mortal man,
To cheer of his life the little span,
And sanctify its right employ.
He saw them not, but ran his race
With a speed that passion alone could give;
Grew hard and grey on his narrow way,
And spent his life ere he learned to live.
And I saw before he reached his prize,
That he sunk in the grave before my eyes.
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