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The twentieth year is well-nigh past
Since first our sky was overcast;
Ah would that this might be the last !
Thy spirits have a fainter flow,
I see thee daily weaker grow –
'Twas my distress that brought thee low,
Thy needles, once a shining store,
For my sake restless heretofore,
Now rust disused, and shine no more ;
For though thou gladly wouldst fulfil
The same kind office for me still,
Thy sight now seconds not thy will,
My Mary !
But well thou play'dst the housewife's part,
And all thy threads with magic art
llave wound themselves about this heart,
Thy indistinct expressions seem
Like language utler'd in a dream ;
Yet me they charm, whate'er the theme,
Thy silver locks, once auburn bright,
Are still more lovely in my sight
Than golden beams of orient light,
For could I view nor them nor thee,
What sight worth seeing could I see?
The sun would rise in vain for me,
Partakers of thy sad decline
Thy hands their little force resign ;
Yet, gently prest, press gently mine,
Such feebleness of limbs thou prov'st
That now at every step thou mov'st
Upheld by two; yet still thou lov'st,
And still to love, though prest with ill,
In wintry age to feel no chill,
With me is to be lovely still,
My Mary! But ah! by constant heed I know How oft the sadness that I show Transforms thy smiles to looks of woe,
My Mary! And should my future lot be cast With much resemblance of the past, Thy worn-out heart will break at last-
Obscurest night involved the sky,
The Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destined wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast
With warmer wishes sent, He loved them both, but both in vain, Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away;
But waged with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.
He shouted : nor his friends had fail'd
To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevail'd,
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford;
And such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
Delay'd not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship nor shore,
Whate'er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them ;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld ;
And so long he, with unspent power,
IIis destiny repellid;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreatedl help, or criedl 'Adieu !'
At length, his transient respite past,
Ilis comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in every blast,
Could catch the sound no more ;
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stilling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him ; but the page
of narrative sincere,
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
Is wet with Anson's tear :
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date :
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.
No voice divine the storm allay'd,
No light propitious shone,
When, snatch'd from all-effectual aid,
We perish'd, each alone :
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.
In the downhill of life, when I find I'm declining,
May my fate no less fortunate be
Than a snug elbow-chair will afford for reclining,
And a cot that o'erlooks the wide sea ;
With an ambling pad-pony to pace o'er the lawn,
While I carol away idle sorrow,
And blithe as the lark that each day hails the dawn
Look forward with hope for Tomorrow. With a porch at my door, both for shelter and shade
too, As the sunshine or rain may prevail ; And a small spot of ground for the use of the spade
With a barn for the use of the flail :
A cow for my dairy, a dog for my game,
And a purse when a friend wants to borrow;
I'll envy no Nabob his riches or fame,
Or what honours may wait him Tomorrow.
From the bleak northern blast may my cot be com
pletely Secured by a neighbouring hill ; And at night may repose steal upon me more sweetly
By the sound of a murmuring rill :
And while peace and plenty I find at my board,
With a heart free from sickness and sorrow,
With my friends may I share what Today may afford,
And let them spread the table Tomorrow. And when I at last must throw off this frail cov'ring
Which I've worn for three-score years and ten, On the brink of the grave I'll not seek to keep
hov'ring, Nor my thread wish to spin o'er again : But my face in the glass I'll serenely survey,
And with smiles count each wrinkle and furrow; As this old worn-out stuff, which is threadbare Today, May become Everlasting Tomorrow.
Life! I know not what thou art,
But know that thou and I must part;
And when, or how, or where we met
I own to me's a secret yet.
Life! we've been long together
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather ;
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear-
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear ;
- Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not Good Night,—but in some brighter
Bid me Good Morning.
A. L. Barbauld