The Conduct of Life (1860)

Fate

Fate Delicate omens traced in airTo the lone bard true witness bare;Birds with auguries on their wingsChanted undeceiving thingsHim to beckon, him to warn;Well might then the poet scornTo learn of scribe or courierHints writ in vaster character;And on his mind, at dawn of day,Soft shadows of the evening lay.For the prevision is alliedUnto the thing so signified;Or say, the foresight that awaitsIs the same Genius that creates. It chanced during one winter, a few years ago, that our cities were bent on discussing the theory of the Age. By an odd coincidence, four or five noted men were each reading a discourse to the citizens of Boston or New…

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Power

Power Ralph Power His tongue was framed to music, And his hand was armed with skill, His face was the mould of beauty, And his heart the throne of will. There is not yet any inventory of a man’s faculties, any more than a bible of his opinions. Who shall set a limit to the influence of a human being? There are men, who, by their sympathetic attractions, carry nations with them, and lead the activity of the human race. And if there be such a tie, that, wherever the mind of man goes, nature will accompany him, perhaps there are men whose magnetisms are of that force to draw…

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Wealth

Wealth Dig where only the skilled the wealthy or the brave Who shall tell what did befall, Far away in time, when once, Over the lifeless ball, Hung idle stars and suns? What god the element obeyed? Wings of what wind the lichen bore, Wafting the puny seeds of power, Which, lodged in rock, the rock abrade? And well the primal pioneer Knew the strong task to it assigned Patient through Heaven’s enormous year To build in matter home for mind. From air the creeping centuries drew The matted thicket low and wide, This must the leaves of ages strew The granite slab to clothe and hide, Ere wheat can…

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Culture

Culture Can rules or tutors educate The semigod whom we await? He must be musical, Tremulous, impressional, Alive to gentle influence Of landscape and of sky, And tender to the spirit-touch Of man’s or maiden’s eye: But, to his native centre fast, Shall into Future fuse the Past, And the world’s flowing fates in his own mould recast. The word of ambition at the present day is Culture. Whilst all the world is in pursuit of power, and of wealth as a means of power, culture corrects the theory of success. A man is the prisoner of his power. A topical memory makes him an almanac; a talent for debate,…

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Behavior

Behavior Grace, Beauty, and Caprice Build this golden portal; Graceful women, chosen men Dazzle every mortal: Their sweet and lofty countenance His enchanting food; He need not go to them, their forms Beset his solitude. He looketh seldom in their face, His eyes explore the ground, The green grass is a looking-glass Whereon their traits are found. Little he says to them, So dances his heart in his breast, Their tranquil mien bereaveth him Of wit, of words, of rest. Too weak to win, too fond to shun The tyrants of his doom, The much deceived Endymion Slips behind a tomb. The soul which animates Nature is not less significantly…

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Worship

Worship This is he, who, felled by foes, Sprung harmless up, refreshed by blows: He to captivity was sold, But him no prison-bars would hold: Though they sealed him in a rock, Mountain chains he can unlock: Thrown to lions for their meat, The crouching lion kissed his feet: Bound to the stake, no flames appalled, But arched o’er him an honoring vault. This is he men miscall Fate, Threading dark ways, arriving late, But ever coming in time to crown The truth, and hurl wrongdoers down. He is the oldest, and best known, More near than aught thou call’st thy own, Yet, greeted in another’s eyes, Disconcerts with glad…

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Considerations

Considerations The Conduct Of Life Hear what British Merlin sung, Of keenest eye and truest tongue. Say not, the chiefs who first arrive Usurp the seats for which all strive; The forefathers this land who found Failed to plant the vantage-ground; Ever from one who comes to-morrow Men wait their good and truth to borrow. But wilt thou measure all thy road, See thou lift the lightest load. Who has little, to him who has less, can spare, And thou, Cyndyllan’s son! beware Ponderous gold and stuffs to bear, To falter ere thou thy task fulfil, — Only the light-armed climb the hill. The richest of all lords is Use,…

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Beauty

Beauty Was never form and never face So sweet to SEYD as only grace Which did not slumber like a stone But hovered gleaming and was gone. Beauty chased he everywhere, In flame, in storm, in clouds of air. He smote the lake to feed his eye With the beryl beam of the broken wave; He flung in pebbles well to hear The moment’s music which they gave. Oft pealed for him a lofty tone From nodding pole and belting zone. He heard a voice none else could hear From centred and from errant sphere. The quaking earth did quake in rhyme, Seas ebbed and flowed in epic chime. In…

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Illusions

Illusions Flow, flow the waves hated, Accursed, adored, The waves of mutation: No anchorage is. Sleep is not, death is not; Who seem to die live. House you were born in, Friends of your spring-time, Old man and young maid, Day’s toil and its guerdon, They are all vanishing, Fleeing to fables, Cannot be moored. See the stars through them, Through treacherous marbles. Know, the stars yonder, The stars everlasting, Are fugitive also, And emulate, vaulted, The lambent heat-lightning, And fire-fly’s flight. When thou dost return On the wave’s circulation, Beholding the shimmer, The wild dissipation, And, out of endeavor To change and to flow, The gas become solid, And…

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