William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

Birthday, Æt. 70 - Poem by William Bell Scott

So many years I've gone this way,
So many years! I must confess
Waste energies, much disarray,
Yet can I own no weariness,
Nor see I evening's shadows fall
Down my much inscriptioned wall:
The warm air still is like mid-day,
And many mournful ghosts are past,
Laid still at last.
The fabled fardel lighter grew
As near the bourne the bearer drew:
Life can, alas, no more surprise
By its continuous compromise.
New faces fill the chairs, and so
Our interest in the game runs low.
Quiet pleasures longest stay,
Experience packs so much away.

I wait and wonder: long ago
This wonder was my constant guest,
Wonder at our environing,
And at myself within the ring:
Still that abides with me, some quest
Before my footsteps seems to lie,
But quest of what I scarcely know,
Life itself makes no reply:
A quest for nought that earth supplies,
This is our life's last compromise.

So many years I've gone this way,
It seems I may walk on for aye,
‘Long life God's gift,’ a brother prayed,
Nearing the confines of the dead,
Going reluctant, not afraid:
With bated breath I bow the head
Thinking of those vague words to-day.

The ancient tempter well divined
This longing of the sunlit blind,

‘Ye shall be wise as gods,’ he said,
If ye obey me undismayed.
Ah, never may this be, though still
In hope we climb the topless hill.
'Tis but the ending of the strife
Calms and crowns the weary head,
Nor till the morn beyond our life
Can life's oracle be read,
When the unanswered brain and heart
Have ceased to ask and ceased to smart:
And all the centuries to come
Like centuries past to us be dumb.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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