Hope is the shadowy essence of a wish,
A fond desire which floats before our eyes;
With lurid aberration, feverish,--
We clutch the shadow which elusive, flies;
Though at our grasp the mocking fancy flees,
Hope still pursues and soothes realities.
Hope, as a mirage on the desert waste,
Lures the lost traveler, by a vision fair
Of gushing fountains which he may not taste,
Of streamlets cool depicted on the air;
With tongue outstretched and parched he onward speeds,
But as he moves the phantom scene recedes.
In the foul dungeon or the narrow cell,
The prisoner doth pace his lonely beat,
And as he treads, his shackles clank a knell
Responsive to each movement of his feet;
Yet through his grated window, he discerns
The star of hope which ever brightly burns.
A noble ship her ponderous anchor weighs,
Glides from the harbor and is lost to sight;
A young wife waves farewell. As many days
In passing turn her golden tresses white,
She scans the horizon through a mist of tears,
Hopes for that vanished sail which ne'er appears.
A galley slave in age and clime remote,
Chained to his seat, unwilling plies the oar;
Before his eyes fond dreams of freedom float,
He hopes amid the battle's crash and roar;
And as the waves the imprisoned wretches drown,
Hopes, as his fetters draw him swiftly down.
A mighty host in force of arms we see,
With march invasive, cross a boundary line;
At its approach no freemen turn and flee,
Each with his life defends his family shrine;
As burning homes illuminate the sky
With ghastly light, they hope and fight and die.
Beside the bed where rests the pallid form,
Of loved one stricken with the fever's breath,
E'en when the loving hands, no longer warm,
Portend the sure and swift approach of Death,
Hope holds the spirit in its house of clay,
And with that spirit only, soars away.
The guilty wretch, for murder doomed to die,
Hoped, in his dungeon as the death watch paced,
Hoped, as the death cap veiled his evil eye,
Hoped, as the noose around his neck was placed,
Hoped, as the chaplain read his final prayer,
Hoped, as he struggled in the viewless air.
In the glad sunshine of life's vernal spring,
Hope buoys the spirit with expectancy;
Hope with her dulcet voice and fluttering wing,
Sings of life's goal with siren harmony;
When silvered temples tell that life declines,
That goal, though yet unreached, still brightly shines.
Yes! As through failure and vicissitude,
We sail along with many an adverse wind,
Hope plants her beacon in the tempest rude,
And leads with generous radiance unconfined;
And when the yawning grave receives its prey,
Hope speeds the spirit on its astral way.