Could I remount the river of my years
To the first fountain of our smiles and tears,
I would not trace again the stream of hours
Between their outworn banks of withered flowers,
But bid it flow as now - until it glides
Into the number of the nameless tides.
* * * * *
What is this Death? - a quiet of the heart?
The whole of that of which we are a part?
For Life is but a vision - what I see
Of all which lives alone is Life to me,
And being so - the absent are the dead,
Who haunt us from tranquillity, and spread
A dreary shroud around us, and invest
With sad remembrancers our hours of rest.
The absent are the dead - for they are cold,
And ne'er can be what once we did behold;
And they are changed, and cheerless, - or if yet
The unforgotten do not all forget,
Since thus divided - equal must it be
If the deep barrier be of earth, or sea;
It may be both - but one day end it must
In the dark union of insensate dust.
The under-earth inhabitants - are they
But mingled millions decomposed to clay?
The ashes of a thousand ages spread
Wherever Man has trodden or shall tread?
Or do they in their silent cities dwell
Each in his incommunicative cell?
Or have they their own language? and a sense
Of breathless being? - darkened and intense
As Midnight in her solitude? - Oh Earth!
Where are the past? - and wherefore had they birth?
The dead are thy inheritors - and we
But bubbles on thy surface; and the key
Of thy profundity is in the Grave,
The ebon portal of thy peopled cave,
Where I would walk in spirit, and behold
Our elements resolved to things untold,
And fathom hidden wonders, and explore
The essence of great bosoms now no more.
* * * * *
Diodati, July, 1816.
[First published, Letters and Journals, 1830, ii. 36.]