Sehnsucht

A poem by Arthur Hugh Clough

Whence are ye, vague desires,
Which carry men along,
However proud and strong;
Which, having ruled to-day,
To-morrow pass away?
Whence are ye, vague desires?
Whence are ye?

Which women, yielding to,
Find still so good and true;
So true, so good to-day,
To-morrow gone away.
Whence are ye, vague desires?
Whence are ye?

From seats of bliss above,
Where angels sing of love;
From subtle airs around,
Or from the vulgar ground,
Whence are ye, vague desires?
Whence are ye?

A message from the blest,
Or bodily unrest;
A call to heavenly good,
A fever in the blood
What are ye, vague desires?
What are ye?

Which men who know you best
Are proof against the least,
And rushing on to-day,
To-morrow cast away.
What are ye, vague desires?
What are ye?

Which women, ever new,
Still warned, surrender to;
Adored with you to-day,
Then cast with you away,
What are ye, vague desires?
What are ye?

Which unto boyhood’s heart
The force of man impart,
And pass, and leave it cold,
And prematurely old,
What are ye, vague desires?
What are ye?

Which, tremblingly confest,
Pour in the young girl’s breast
Joy, joy, the like is none,
And leave her then undone,
What are ye, vague desires?
What are ye?

Ah yet! though man be marred,
Ignoble made, and hard;
Though broken women lie
In anguish down to die;
Ah yet! ye vague desires,
Ah yet!

By Him who gave you birth,
And blended you with earth,
Was some good end designed
For man and womankind;
Ah yet! ye vague desires,
Ah yet!

The petals of to-day,
To-morrow fallen away,
Shall something leave instead,
To live when they are dead;
When you, ye vague desires,
Have vanished;

A something to survive,
Of you though it derive
Apparent earthly birth,
But of far other worth
Than you, ye vague desires,
Than you.

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