Shadow Thoughts.

Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death—
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns—puzzles the will ?
Hamlet .
The better part of life is Sleep,1
Sleep unwakeful, dreamless-deep,2
(For Dreams, false mirrors of our life,3
Are faithful in their shares of strife)4
Our fullest joy—our only bliss5
Unmixed with pain—Forgetfulness !6
That we are born at all, to most7
A gain that we had rather lost ;8
That we are now, a gift, this day9
That most of us would cast away ;10
That we shall die, a thing to hear11
With smiles, but for the Nameless Fear.12
Thou toil’st this weary day, my brother,13
That, haply, thou mayst toil another,14
And ’twixt the two falls easeful Sleep.15
Scant harvest from such seed to reap !16
No golden meed, that one should gain17
Forgetfulness of each day’s pain !18
Ah, how is this, that I and Thou,19
(Frown as thou wilt) who hear’st me now,20
Would break for aye this lengthening chain21
Would cut the Silver Cord in twain22
And cancel Hope, the ever-strong,23
With such a Fear, as must be wrong,24
And give back those far lights that quiver25
Yet through the storm-clouds to their Giver,26
For utter dark, and such blank peace27
As falls to the calm things that cease !28
The scanty stores of Prayer and Praise29
Accepted in our youthful days,30
The now and then repentant tears31
That sparkle through our later years,32
And those few deeds we love to tell of,33
And think at heart so overwell of34
How gladly would we barter them35
(Each rare and burnished little gem36
That with complacent smile we’ve set37
In Memory’s roomy cabinet)38
For half the ill we’ve done and thought,39
In others praised, to others taught ;40
For well we know, howe’er it seem,41
Which side, when weighed, will kick the beam.42
In truth, my brother—if we think43
The balance, every day, must sink44
More earthward, and the Shapeless Fear45
Distincter grow, each day more near.46
Ah, blessed Faith, what purest saint47
Doth more than make yon shadow faint !48
Ah, cursed Fear, wer’t not for thee,49
What man might bear his misery !50