The Old Man's Lament

A poem by John Clare

Youth has no fear of ill, by no cloudy days annoyed,
But the old man's all hath fled, and his hopes have met their doom:
The bud hath burst to flower, and the flower been long destroyed,
The root also is withered; I no more can look for bloom.
So I have said my say, and I have had my day,
And sorrow, like a young storm, creeps dark upon my brow;
Hopes, like to summer clouds, have all blown far away,
And the world's sunny side is turned over with me now,
And I am left a lame bird upon a withered bough.

I look upon the past: 't is as black as winter days,
But the worst is not yet over; there are blacker, days to come.
O, I would I had but known of the wide world's many ways,
But youth is ever blind, so I e'en must meet my doom.
Joy once gave brightest forecasts of prospects that are past,
But now, like a looking glass that's turned to the wall,
Life is nothing but a blank, and the sunny shining past
Is overcast in glooms that my every hope enthrall,
While troubles daily thicken in the wind ere they fall.

Life smiled upon me once, as the sun upon the rose;
My heart, so free and open, guessed in every face a friend:
Though the sweetest flower must fade, and the sweetest season close,
Yet I never gave it thought that my happiness would end,
Till the warmest-seeming friends grew the coldest at the close,
As the sun from lonely night hides its haughty shining face,
Yet I could not think them gone, for they turned not open foes,
While memory fondly mused, former favours to retrace,
So I turned, but only found that my shadow kept its place.

And this is nought but common life, which everybody finds
As well as I, or more's the luck of those that better speed.
I'll mete my lot to bear with the lot of kindred minds,
And grudge not those who say they for sorrow have no need.
Why should I, when I know that it will not aid a nay?
For Summer is the season; even then the little fly
Finds friends enow, indeed, both for leisure and for play;
But on the winter window it must crawl alone to die:
Such is life, and such am I--a wounded, stricken fly.

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