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I thought this time 'twas done at last,
the workings perfected, the life in it;
and there's the flaw again, the petty flaw,
the fretting small impossibility
that has to be made possible.
so many more months lost on a wrong tack;
and months and months may so be lost again,
who knows? until they swell a tale of years
counted by failures. No time to sit down
with folded arms to moan for the spent toil,
for on, on, glide the envious treacherous hours
that bring at last the night when none can work;
and I'll not die with my work unfulfilled.
It must perform my thought, it must awake,
this soulless whirring thing of springs and wheels,
and be a power among us. Aye, but how?
There it stands facing me, compact, precise,
the nice presentment of my long design,
and what is it? an accurate mockery,
and not my creature. Where's my secret hid,
the little easy secret which, once found,
will shew so palpable that the pleased world
shall presently believe it always knew?
Where is my secret? Oh, my aching brain!
Good God, have all the anxious ponderings,
all the laborious strain of hand and head,
all the night watches, all the stolen days
from fruitfuller tasks, all I have borne and done,
brought me no nearer solving?
yes, from the little ones and grave pale wife
who should have every hour of mine made coin
to buy them sunshine. Stolen; and they lack all
save the bare needs which only paupers lack:
stolen; and cheerlessly the mother sits
over her dismal blinding stitchery,
and no quick smile of welcome parts her lips,
seeing me come; and quiet at their play
the children crowd, cooped in the unlovely home,
and envy tattered urchins out of doors
their merry life and playground of the streets.
Oh, if it were but my one self to spend!
but to doom them too with me! Never a thought
dawns first into the world but is a curse
on the rash finder; part of heaven's fire
filched to bestow on men, and for your pay
the vulture at your heart.
What should one choose?
or is there choice? A madness comes on you,
whose name is revelation: who has power
to check the passion of it, who in the world?
A revelation, yes; 'tis but a name
for knowledge ... and there perishes free-will,
for every man is slave of what he knows;
it is the soul of him, could you quench that
you leave the mere mechanic animal--
a sentient creature, true, and reasoning,
(because the clockwork in it's made for that),
but, like my creature there, its purport lacked,
so but its own abortive counterfeit.
We have our several purports; some to pace
the accustomed roads and foot down rampant weeds,
bearing mute custom smoothly on her course;
some difficultly to force readier paths,
or hew out passes through the wilderness;
and some belike to find the snuggest place,
and purr beside the fire. Each of his kind;
but can you change your kind? the lion caged
is still a lion, pipes us no lark's trills;
drive forth the useful brood hen from the yard,
she'll never learn the falcon's soar and swoop.
We must abye our natures; if they fit
too crossly to our hap the worse for us,
but who would pray (say such a prayer could serve)
"Let me become some other, not myself"?
And yet, and yet--Oh, why am I assigned
to this long maiming battle? Why to me
this blasting gift, this lightning of the gods
scorching the hand that wields it? why to me?
A lonely man, or dandled in the lap
of comfortable fortune, might with joy
hug the strange serpent blessing; to the one
it has no tooth, for gilded hands make gold
of all they touch, the other ...... is alone,
and has the right to suffer. Not for them
is doubt or dread; but I--Oh little ones
whose unsuspecting eyes pierce me with smiles!
Oh sad and brooding wife whose silent hopes
are all rebukes to mine!
Come, think it out;
traitor to them or traitor to the world;
is that the choice? Why then, they are my own,
given in my hand, looking to me for all,
and, for my destined present to the world,
being what it is, some one some fortunate day
will find it, or achieve it; if the world wait...
well, it has waited. Yet 'twere pitiful
that still and still, while to a thousand souls
life's irrecoverable swift to-day
becomes the futile yesterday, the world
go beggared of a birthright unaware,
and, (as if one should slake his thirst with blood
pricked from his own red v
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