Love or Wisdom?


Were I so mad as I have been of yore
I would be happy: mad with Beauty's eyes;
Mad with the voice of one I could adore,
And the sweet music of her soft replies:
Mad with the charms of a serene bright face;
Possessed, and inly haunted by the grace
Of some fair creature, in her form and mind
The star and paragon of all her kind.

For, if I were so happy-mad again,
I'd live anew. I'd feed upon delights;
I'd find enraptured frenzy in a pain;
I'd roam, dreaming awake, through summer nights,
And hear a murmuring music in the air,
Which I would harmonize into a word —
That word her name. I'd kneel, with forehead bare,
Out in the solemn woods, unseen, unheard,
And call on earth to bless her as she trod;
Sweet winds to fan her, skies to drop her joy;
And would invoke the providence of God
To keep her harmless, nor let care annoy,
Nor sorrow vex, nor pleasure pall on sense;
My being hers, hers mine, and both intense
With a full, throbbing, rapturous, infinite bliss
In being loved. For madness such as this,
I'd give up wisdom and her castled clouds.
I would unlearn all I have learned; give back
Experience, and the blazoning breath of crowds
Wafting Fame's incense forward on my track.
I would forego all hope, and all desire
But one: that life might be a blank white page,
Where Fate might write one word of heavenly fire —
Love : that so breathing the delicious rage,
My veins might run it, and my brain might take
That for sole impulse, and for Love's sweet sake
Nature put on her bridal robes, and blush
Beauty upon me from each tree and flower;
And in her nightly gleam, her morning flush,
Her buzzing noon, and evening's golden hour,
Converse with me upon the one great theme
With all her voices; meadow, mountain, stream,
Forest and ocean, uttering but one sound
Ever and ever as the world went round,
The stars repeating it, with meanings rife,
And that word Love ; — this would be living life.

For why? And wert thou in that fiery craze
So happy, that thou wouldst indeed recall
What thou hast seen, done, suffered in the days
When thy blood boiled, and thou wert passion all?
Poor fool! forgetful of departed woes,
Past misery, anguish, discontent, and tears;
Mindful alone of pleasure and repose,
Seen through the wave of the refractive years
In colors not their own. When Love was thine,
Wert thou not heart-sore? Didst thou not repine
For something that was past, or was to come?
Was not that day as wearisome as this?
Its music stale? Its friendly voices dumb,
And thou a dreamer of remoter bliss?
Poor fool! to-morrow thou wilt bless to-day,
And wish it back; and with a new disgust
Think of the newest time, till fled away
It leaves thee memory, and a fresh mistrust.
And so thou journeyest, thankless to the dust.
Be not so mad as thou hast been of yore,
Yet happier far. Is not the Now thine own?
Now ever present? now for evermore? Now always with thee, but its worth unknown,
Or lightly thought of? Lay its mystery bare,
And learn the mighty secret how to live; —
Learn that if mind be pure, the world is fair;
And that the outer sunshine cannot give
Such Warmth, and Joy, and Beauty, as the light
Cast by the inner spirit infinite,
When it is clear from every sensual stain.
Simple and thankful, — live not thou in vain,
Nor hurry to the goal with desperate haste
To make the present past, and both a waste.
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