Lines, Addressed to the Young Gentlemen leaving the Academy at Lenox, Massachusetts.

A poem by Frances Anne Kemble

Life is before ye - and while now ye stand
Eager to spring upon the promised land,
Fair smiles the way, where yet your feet have trod
But few light steps, upon a flowery sod;
Round ye are youth's green bowers, and to your eyes
Th' horizon's line joins earth with the bright skies;
Daring and triumph, pleasure, fame, and joy,
Friendship unwavering, love without alloy,
Brave thoughts of noble deeds, and glory won,
Like angels, beckon ye to venture on.
And if o'er the bright scene some shadows rise,
Far off they seem, at hand the sunshine lies;
The distant clouds, which of ye pause to fear?
Shall not a brightness gild them when more near?
Dismay and doubt ye know not, for the power
Of youth is strong within ye at this hour,
And the great mortal conflict seems to ye
Not so much strife as certain victory -
A glory ending in eternity.
Life is before ye - oh! if ye could look
Into the secrets of that sealed book,
Strong as ye are in youth, and hope, and faith,
Ye should sink down, and falter, "Give us death!"
Could the dread Sphinx's lips but once disclose,
And utter but a whisper of the woes
Which must o'ertake ye, in your lifelong doom,
Well might ye cry, "Our cradle be our tomb!"
Could ye foresee your spirit's broken wings,
Earth's brightest triumphs what despised things,
Friendship how feeble, love how fierce a flame,
Your joy half sorrow, half your glory shame,
Hollowness, weariness, and, worst of all,
Self-scorn that pities not its own deep fall,
Fast gathering darkness, and fast waning light, -
Oh could ye see it all, ye might, ye might
Cower in the dust, unequal to the strife,
And die, but in beholding what is life.

Life is before ye - from the fated road
Ye cannot turn: then take ye up your load.
Not yours to tread, or leave the unknown way,
Ye must go o'er it, meet ye what ye may.
Gird up your souls within ye to the deed,
Angels, and fellow-spirits, bid ye speed!
What though the brightness dim, the pleasure fade,
The glory wane, - oh! not of these is made
The awful life that to your trust is given.
Children of God! inheritors of heaven!
Mourn not the perishing of each fair toy,
Ye were ordained to do, not to enjoy,
To suffer, which is nobler than to dare;
A sacred burthen is this life ye bear,
Look on it, lift it, bear it solemnly,
Stand up and walk beneath it steadfastly;
Fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin,
But onward, upward, till the goal ye win;
God guard ye, and God guide ye on your way,
Young pilgrim warriors who set forth to-day!

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