Human Life



If dead, we cease to be ; if total gloom
     Swallow up life's brief flash for aye, we fare
As summer-gusts, of sudden birth and doom,
     Whose sound and motion not alone declare,
But are their whole of being ! If the breath
     Be Life itself, and not its task and tent,
If even a soul like Milton's can know death ;
     O Man ! thou vessel purposeless, unmeant,
Yet drone-hive strange of phantom purposes !
     Surplus of Nature's dread activity,
Which, as she gazed on some nigh-finished vase,
Retreating slow, with meditative pause,
     She formed with restless hands unconsciously.
Blank accident ! nothing's anomaly !
     If rootless thus, thus substanceless thy state,
Go, weigh thy dreams, and be thy hopes, thy fears,
The counter-weights !--Thy laughter and thy tears
     Mean but themselves, each fittest to create
And to repay the other ! Why rejoices
     Thy heart with hollow joy for hollow good ?
     Why cowl thy face beneath the mourner's hood ?
Why waste thy sighs, and thy lamenting voices,
     Image of Image, Ghost of Ghostly Elf,
That such a thing as thou feel'st warm or cold ?
Yet what and whence thy gain, if thou withhold
     These costless shadows of thy shadowy self ?
Be sad ! be glad ! be neither ! seek, or shun !
Thou hast no reason why ! Thou canst have none ;
Thy being's being is contradiction.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 28, 2023

1:07 min read
387

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABABCDCDEFGHFFIJKIELLEMNNMOOO
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 1,321
Words 219
Stanzas 1
Stanza Lengths 29

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. more…

All Samuel Taylor Coleridge poems | Samuel Taylor Coleridge Books

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