A youth unto herself Grief took,
Whom everything of joy forsook,
And men passed with denying head,
Saying: "'T were better he were dead."
Grief took him, and with master-touch
Molded his being. I marveled much
To see her magic with the clay,
So much she gave - and took away.
Daily she wrought, and her design
Grew daily clearer and more fine,
To make the beauty of his shape
Serve for the spirit's free escape.
With liquid fire she filled his eyes.
She graced his lips with swift surmise
Of sympathy for others' woe,
And made his every fibre flow
In fairer curves. On brow and chin
And tinted cheek, drawn clean and thin,
She sculptured records rich, great Grief!
She made him loving, made him lief.
I marveled; for, where others saw
A failing frame with many a flaw,
Meseemed a figure I beheld
Fairer than anything of eld
Fashioned from sunny marble. Here
Nature was artist with no peer.
No chisel's purpose could have caught
These lines, nor brush their secret wrought.
Not so the world weighed, busily
Pursuing drossy industry;
But, saturated with success,
Well-guarded by a soft excess
Of bodily ease, gave little heed
To him that held not by their creed,
Save o'er the beauteous youth to moan:
"A pity that he is not grown
To our good stature and heavier weight,
To bear his share of our full freight."
Meanwhile, thus to himself he spoke:
"Oh, noble is the knotted oak,
And sweet the gush of sylvan streams,
And good the great sun's gladding beams,
The blush of life upon the field,
The silent might that mountains wield.
Still more I love to mix with men,
Meeting the kindly human ken;
To feel the force of faithful friends -
The thirst for smiles that never ends.
"Yet precious more than all of these
I hold great Sorrow's mysteries,
Whereby Gehenna's sultry gale
Is made to lift the golden veil
'Twixt heaven's starry-spherèd light
Of truth and our dim, sun-blent sight.
Joy comes to ripen; but 'tis Grief
That garners in the grainy sheaf.
Time was I feared to know or feel
The spur of aught but gilded weal;
To bear aloft the victor, Fame,
Would ev'n have champed a stately shame
Of bit and bridle. But my fears
Fell off in the pure bath of tears.
And now with sinews fresh and strong
I stride, to summon with a song
The deep, invigorating truth
That makes me younger than my youth.
"O Sorrow, deathless thy delight!
Deathless it were but for our slight
Endurance! Truth like thine, too rare,
We dare but take in scantiest share."
He died: the creatures of his kind
Fared on. Not one had known his mind.
But the unnamed yearnings of the air,
The eternal sky's wide-searching stare,
The undertone of brawling floods,
And the old moaning of the woods
Grew full of memory.
Many a brave heart has shone upon
Since then, of men who walked abroad
For joy and gladness praising God.
But widowed Grief lives on alone:
She hath not chosen, of them, one.