The Out-Comer and the In-Goer

For Ernest was a palace built,
A palace beautiful to see;
Marble porched, and cedar chambered,
Hung with damask drapery;
Bossed with ornaments of silver,
Interlaid with gems and gold;
Filled with carvings, from cathedrals
Rescued in the days of old;
Eloquent with books and pictures,
All that luxury could afford;
Warm with statues that Pygmalion
Might have fashioned — and adored.
In his forest glades and vistas
Lovely were the light and gloom;
Fountains sparkled in his gardens,
And exotics breathed perfume.

With him to that lordly palace
Went the friend who loved him best,
In good fortune unexalted,
In misfortune undepressed.
Little recked that friend of grandeur;
Dearer far to him than all
Wealth could offer, were the rose-buds
Growing on the garden-wall.
Dearer far were simple pleasures,
And the charms by Nature spread,
Than all gauds of power and splendor,
Heaped upon their favorite's head.
Plain was he in speech and raiment,
Humble-minded, and imbued
With a daily love of virtue,
And a daily gratitude.

Ere these palace-halls received them,
Steadfast was the faith they bore;
No estrangement came between them,
Darkening their study door.
Ernest in his friend's communion,
Loved himself and all his kind,
Cherishing a loving nature,
Tutored by a happy mind,
Rich and poor were equal brothers,
In that heart too pure to hold
Pride of lineage or of station,
Or the vanity of gold.
Never chanced it, in that season,
That he formed a thought unjust
Of the meanest fellow-mortal
Fashioned of a common dust.

But his palace somewhat changed him;
Rose-buds gathered — early walks —
Sunset roamings — nightly musings —
Mystic philosophic talks —
Nothing as of old engrossed him;
And the promptings of his friend
Fell upon his sated spirit,
Not to guide him, but offend.
Daily grew the chilling coolness,
Till, ere many months had flown,
Ernest shut his door upon him,
And resolved to live alone:
And retreating 'mid his splendor
Rooted out all love he bore
For that friend, so true, so noble,
Banished, lost for evermore.

Scarcely had that friend departed,
Pained and pensive, but resigned,
When another sought the palace,
More accordant to his mind.
He in Ernest's lordly chambers
Sat, and called him first of men;
Praised his pictures and his statues,
Flattered him with tongue and pen;
Pressed the milk of human kindness
From his bosom cold and sere,
Taught him to be harsh and cruel,
Proud, disdainful, and austere;
Filled him up with vain inflation,
And contempt for meaner clay,
As if he were born to govern,
It to flatter and obey.

Sometimes on his lonely pillow,
When his conscience showed the truth,
He deplored his blind estrangement
From the comrade of his youth;
But the daylight chilled the current
Of that feeling, and it froze
Hard enough to bear the burden
Of such memories as those.
And all day, in gloomy grandeur,
In his corridors and halls,
Looking at his old escutcheons,
And the portraits on the walls,
He and his companion wandered,
Calm of eye, with lips upcurled,
Aliens to the worth and goodness,
And the beauty of the world.

Wintry winds of human anguish,
Blowing round them day and night,
Never moved them — never clouded
Their serenity of light.
They were made of choice material,
Tempest-proof, from lightning free,
And the world, its joys and sorrows,
Was to them a shipless sea,
Dark, unfathomable, trackless,
Far beyond their care or ken,
Save at times, when ostentation
Brought them to the gaze of men;
But ev'n this was painful to them:
Man was cold, and earth was wide; —
They preferred the warm seclusion
Of their apathy and pride.
Who was he, the first out-goer?
He was Human S YMPATHY ;
And the in-comer that displaced him?
He was W ORLDLY V ANITY .
With the first Religion vanished,
Charity , and Faith in Man ,
And the genial Love of Nature ,
Boundless as Creation's plan.
With the second entered Hatred ,
Harsh Intolerance , and Scorn: —
Ernest in his life's cold evening
Saw the error of his morn —
Saw his error and deplored it,
And upon his death-bed lain,
Prayed for mercy, while confessing,
Dying, he had lived in vain.
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