Thomas Babbington Macaulay
Lines Written in August
The day of tumult, strife, defeat, was o'er;
Worn out with toil, and noise, and scorn, and spleen,
I slumbered, and in slumber saw once more
A room in an old mansion, long unseen.
That room, methought, was curtained from the light;
Yet through the curtains shone the moon's cold ray
Full on a cradle, where, in linen white,
Sleeping life's first soft sleep, an infant lay.
Pale flickered on the hearth the dying flame,
And all was silent in that ancient hall,
Save when by fits on the low night-wind came
The murmur of the distant waterfall.
And lo! the fairy queens who rule our birth
Drew nigh to speak the new-born baby's doom:
With noiseless step, which left no trace on earth,
From gloom they came, and vanished into gloom.
Not deigning on the boy a glance to cast
Swept careless by the gorgeous Queen of Gain;
More scornful still, the Queen of Fashion passed,
With mincing gait and sneer of cold disdain.
The Queen of Power tossed high her jewelled head,
And o'er her shoulder threw a wrathful frown;
The Queen of Pleasure on the pillow shed
Scarce one stray rose-leaf from her fragrant crown.
Still Fay in long procession followed Fay;
And still the little couch remained unblest:
But, when those wayward sprites had passed away,
Came One, the last, the mightiest, and the best.
Oh glorious lady, with the eyes of light
And laurels clustering round thy lofty brow,
Who by the cradle's side didst watch that night,
Warbling a sweet, strange music, who wast thou?
"Yes, darling; let them go;" so ran the strain:
"Yes; let them go, gain, fashion, pleasure, power,
And all the busy elves to whose domain
Belongs the nether sphere, the fleeting hour.
"Without one envious sigh, one anxious scheme,
The nether sphere, the fleeting hour resign.
Mine is the world of thought, the world of dream,
Mine all the past, and all the future mine.
"Fortune, that lays in sport the mighty low,
Age, that to penance turns the joys of youth,
Shall leave untouched the gifts which I bestow,
The sense of beauty and the thirst of truth.
"Of the fair brotherhood who share my grace,
I, from thy natal day, pronounce thee free;
And, if for some I keep a nobler place,
I keep for none a happier than for thee.
"There are who, while to vulgar eyes they seem
Of all my bounties largely to partake,
Of me as of some rival's handmaid deem
And court me but for gain's, power's, fashion's sake.
"To such, though deep their lore, though wide their fame,
Shall my great mysteries be all unknown:
But thou, through good and evil, praise and blame,
Wilt not thou love me for myself alone?
"Yes; thou wilt love me with exceeding love;
And I will tenfold all that love repay,
Still smiling, though the tender may reprove,
Still faithful, though the trusted may betray.
"For aye mine emblem was, and aye shall be,
The ever-during plant whose bough I wear,
Brightest and greenest then, when every tree
That blossoms in the light of Time is bare.
"In the dark hour of shame, I deigned to stand
Before the frowning peers at Bacon's side:
On a far shore I smoothed with tender hand,
Through months of pain, the sleepless bed of Hyde:
"I brought the wise and brave of ancient days
To cheer the cell where Raleigh pined alone:
I lighted Milton's darkness with the blaze
Of the bright ranks that guard the eternal throne.
"And even so, my child, it is my pleasure
That thou not then alone shouldst feel me nigh,
When in domestic bliss and studious leisure,
Thy weeks uncounted come, uncounted fly;
"Not then alone, when myriads, closely pressed
Around thy car, the shout of triumph raise;
Nor when, in gilded drawing rooms, thy breast
Swells at the sweeter sound of woman's praise.
"No: when on restless night dawns cheerless morrow,
When weary soul and wasting body pine,
Thine am I still, in danger, sickness, sorrow,
In conflict, obloquy, want, exile, thine;
"Thine, where on mountain waves the snowbirds scream,
Where more than Thule's winter barbs the breeze,
Where scarce, through lowering clouds, one sickly gleam
Lights the drear May-day of Antarctic seas;
"Thine, when around thy litter's track all day
White sandhills shall reflect the blinding glare;
Thine, when, through forests breathing death, thy way
All night shall wind by many a tiger's lair;
"Thine most, when friends turn pale, when traitors fly,
When, hard beset, thy spirit, justly proud,
For truth, peace, freedom, mercy, dares defy
A sullen priesthood and a raving crowd.
"Amidst the din of all things fell and vile,
Hate's yell, and envy's hiss, and folly's bray,
Remember me; and with an unforced smile
See riches, baubles, flatterers, pass away.
"Yes: they will pass away; nor deem it strange:
They come and go, as comes and goes the sea:
And let them come and go: thou, through all change,
Fix thy firm gaze on virtue and on me."
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