The Vain Question

Why should we court the storms that rave and rend,
Safe at our household hearth?
Why, starved and naked, without home or friend,
Unknowing whence we came or where we wend,
Follow from no beginning to no end
An uncrowned martyr's path?

Is it worth while to waste our all in vain?
To seek, and not to know?
To strive for something we can never gain,
To labour blindly for a wage of pain,
And crack our heartstrings with the stress and strain,
And reap no field we sow?

What does it matter whether love or hate,
Or praise or blame, be theirs
Who pass like shadows, with no time to wait
For understanding of the ways of fate,
Which makes the hopeless desert blossom late,
And kills good wheat with tares?

Why do we choose to suffer, when we might
Lie down to sleep and dream?
Is praise for men who try to do the right?
Is blame for him who shirks the deadly fight?
And whose the friendship that is heart's delight?
And whose the love supreme?

Wide do we set our sanctuary door
That fairest guest to greet,
And find too late, when we have shown our store,
The sacred places rudely trampled o'er,
Bereaved, profaned, and soiled for evermore
With tread of vulgar feet.

And nothing left to solace us but this,
At such a frightful cost -
A taste, a glimpse, the memory of a kiss;
Only a sense of what diviner bliss,
That might have been, we have contrived to miss;
Only what love has lost.

And brother-bond - the loyal comradeship
That comes to every call -
What worth the smiling eye, the warm hand-grip,
The benediction of the kindly lip?
Sickness, old age or poverty can strip
The value from them all.

And faith, embalmed in immemorial creed -
Once our supreme support,
Our staff and beacon to uphold and lead -
A light extinguished and a broken reed!
And where, O where, in bitter time of need,
Shall substitute be sought?

Wherefore this anguish of desire to see
That which concerns us not -
The evolution of the life to be,
The distant course, the final destiny
Of worlds and men - the ages wherein we
Shall have no part or lot?

Why not shut eyes of spirit and of brain
That can torment us thus?
Why not take something to assuage the pain,
And shut the doors and go to sleep again?
The Search may be successful or in vain,
What matters it to us?

Is it worth while, when house and home are here,
And we can dwell at ease,
To go forth, lonely, and in mortal fear,
To travel roads that lead not anywhere,
As bare of lamp or signpost, far or near,
And full of thorns, as these?

To leave the Good whereof we are possest,
To seek, in senseless grief,
For some divine but ever unknown Best,
And see no goal and find no place of rest -
Is it worth while, on such a fruitless quest
To waste a life so brief?

We must not ask - we must not ask again.
We have to wait and see.
Press on, poor soul, along the path of pain
That is the one thing absolutely plain.
The last assessment of the loss and gain
Is not a task for thee.

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Ada Cambridge

Ada Cambridge, later known as Ada Cross, was an English-born Australian writer. more…

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"The Vain Question" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 31 Mar. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/121/the-vain-question>.

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