A poem by Matthew Arnold

Say, what blinds us, that we claim the glory
Of possessing powers not our share?
Since man woke on earth, he knows his story,
But, before we woke on earth, we were.

Long, long since, undower’d yet, our spirit
Roam’d, ere birth, the treasuries of God
Saw the gifts, the powers it might inherit;
Ask’d an outfit for its earthly road.

Then, as now, this tremulous, eager Being
Strain’d, and long’d, and grasp’d each gift it saw.
Then, as now, a Power beyond our seeing
Stav’d us back, and gave our choice the law.

Ah, whose hand that day through heaven guided
Man’s blank spirit, since it was not we?
Ah, who sway’d our choice, and who decided
What our gifts, and what our wants should be?

For, alas! he left us each retaining
Shreds of gifts which he refus’d in full.
Still these waste us with their hopeless straining
Still the attempt to use them proves them null.

And on earth we wander, groping, reeling;
Powers stir in us, stir and disappear.
Ah. and he, who placed our master-feeling,
Fail’d to place our master-feeling clear.

We but dream we have our wish’d-for powers.
Ends we seek we never shall attain.
Ah, some power exists there, which is ours?
Some end is there, we indeed may gain?

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