Christopher Pearse Cranch

(1815-1892 / the USA)

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis


I STARTED on a lonely road.
A few companions with me went.
Some fell behind, some forward strode,
But all on one high purpose bent:
To live for Nature, finding truth
In beauty, and the shrines of art;
To consecrate our joyous youth
To aims outside the common mart.
The way was steep, though pleasure crowned
Our toil with every step we took.
The morning air was spiced around
From many a pine and cedar nook.
I turned aside and lingered long
To pluck a rose, to hear a bird,
To muse, while listening to the song
Of brooks through leafy coverts heard;
To live in thoughts that brought no fame
Or guerdon from the thoughtless crowd;
To toll for ends that could not claim
The world's applauses coarse and loud;
Then onward pressed. But far before
I saw my comrades on the heights.
They no divided homage bore
To Beauty's myriad sounds and sights.
In blithe self-confidence they wrought.
Some strove for fame and fame's reward.
They pleased the public's facile thought;
Then paused and stretched them on the sward.
And still though oft I bind my sheaf
In fields my comrades have not known;
Though Art is long and life is brief,
And youth has now forever flown,
I would not lose the raptures sweet,
Nor scorn the toil of earlier years;
Still would I climb with eager feet,
Though towering height on height appears —
And up the mountain road I see
A younger throng with voices loud,
Who side by side press on with me,
Till I am lost amid the crowd.

Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010

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