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“ Before the little ducts began
To feed thy bones with lime, and ran
Their course, till thou wert also man :

“ Who took a wife, who rear'd his race, Whose wrinkles gather'd on his face, Whose troubles number with his days :

A life of nothings, nothing-worth, From that first nothing ere his birth To that last nothing under earth!”

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“ These words," I said, are like the rest, No certain clearness, but at best A vague suspicion of the breast :

“ But if I grant, thou might'st defend The thesis which thy words intend That to begin implies to end ;

“ Yet how should I for certain hold, Because my memory is so cold, That I first was in human mould ?

“ I cannot make this matter plain, But I would shoot, howe'er in vain,

A random arrow from the brain.

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be that no life is found, Which only to one engine bound Falls off, but cycles always round.

“ As old mythologies relate, Some draught of Lethe might await The slipping thro' from state to state.

" As here we find in trances, men Forget the dream that happens then, Until they fall in trance again.

“ So might we, if our state were such As one before, remember much, For those two likes might meet and touch.

“ But, if I lapsed from nobler place,
Some legend of a fallen race
Alone might hint of my disgrace ;

“ Some vague emotion of delight In gazing up an Alpine height, Some yearning toward the lamps of night.

“ Or if thro’ lower lives I cameTho' all experience past became

Consolidate in mind and frame

“ I might forget my weaker lot ; For is not our first year forgot ? The haunts of memory echo not.

“ And men, whose reason long was blind, From cells of madness unconfined, Oft lose whole years of darker mind.

“ Much more, if first I floated free, As naked essence, must I be Incompetent of memory :

“ For memory dealing but with time, And he with matter, could she climb Beyond her own material prime?


Moreover, something is or seems, That touches me with mystic gleams, Like glimpses of forgotten dreams

“Of something felt, like something here ; Of something done, I know not where ; Such as no language may declare.”

The still voice laugh’d. “ I talk,” said he, “ Not with thy dreams. Suffice it thee Thy pain is a reality.”


“ But thou,” said I, “hast miss'd thy mark, Who sought'st to wreck my mortal ark, By making all the horizon dark.

Why not set forth, if I should do This rashness, that which might ensue With this old soul in organs new ?

“ Whatever crazy sorrow saith,
No life that breathes with human breath

Has ever truly long'd for death.

“ 'Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant, Oh life, not death, for which we pant ; More life, and fuller, that I want.”

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