The troubles of life are many,
The pleasures of life are few ;
When we sat in the sunlight, Annie,
I dreamt that the skies were blue—
When we sat in the sunlight, Annie,
I dreamt that the earth was green ;
There is little colour, if any,
'Neath the sunlight now to be seen.
Then the rays of the sunset glinted
Through the blackwoods' emerald bough
On an emerald sward, rose-tinted,
And spangled, and gemm'd ;—and now
The rays of the sunset redden
With a sullen and lurid frown,
From the skies that are dark and leaden,
To earth that is dusk and brown.
To right and to left extended
The uplands are blank and drear,
And their neutral tints are blended
With the dead leaves sombre and sere :
The cold grey mist from the still side
Of the lake creeps sluggish and sure,
Bare and bleak is the hill-side,
Barren and bleak the moor.
Bright hues and shapes intertwisted,
Fair forms and rich colours ;—now
They have flown—if e'er they existed—
It matters not why or how.
It matters not where or when, dear,
They have flown, the blue and the green,
I thought on what might be then, dear,
Now I think on what might have been.
What might have been !—words of folly ;
What might be !—speech for a fool ;
With mistletoe round me, and holly,
Scarlet and green, at Yule,
With the elm in the place of the wattle,
And in lieu of the gum, the oak,
Years back I believed a little,
And as I believed I spoke.
Have I done with those childish fancies ?
They suited the days gone by,
When I pulled the poppies and pansies,
When I hunted the butterfly,
With one who has long been sleeping,
A stranger to doubts and cares,
And to sowing that ends in reaping
Thistles, and thorns, and tares.
What might be !—the dreams were scatter'd,
As chaff is toss'd by the wind,
The faith has been rudely shattered
That listen'd with credence blind ;
Things were to have been, and therefore
They were, and they are to be,
And will be ;—we must prepare for
The doom we are bound to dree.
Ah, me ! we believe in evil,
Where once we believed in good,
The world, the flesh, and the devil
Are easily understood ;
The world, the flesh, and the devil,
Their traces on earth are plain ;
Must they always riot and revel
While footprints of man remain ?
Talk about better and wiser,
Wiser and worse are one,
The sophist is the despiser
Of all things under the sun ;
Is nothing real but confusion ?
Is nothing certain but death ?
Is nothing fair save illusion ?
Is nothing good that has breath ?
Some sprite, malignant and elfish,
Seems present, whispering close,
'All motives of life are selfish,
All instincts of life are gross ;
And the song that the poet fashions,
And the love-bird's musical strain,
Are jumbles of animal passions,
Refined by animal pain.'
The restless throbbings and burnings
That hope unsatisfied brings,
The weary longings and yearnings
For the mystical better things,
Are the sands on which is reflected
The pitiless moving lake,
Where the wanderer falls dejected,
By a thirst he never can slake.
A child blows bubbles that glitter,
He snatches them, they disperse ;
Yet childhood's folly is better,
And manhood's folly is worse ;
Gilt baubles we grasp at blindly
Would turn in our hands to dross ;
'Tis a fate less cruel than kindly
Denies the gain and the loss.
And as one who pursues a shadow,
As one who hunts in a dream,
As the child who crosses the meadow,
Enticed by the rainbow's gleam,
I—knowing the course was foolish,
And guessing the goal was pain,
Stupid, and stubborn, and mulish—
Followed and follow again.
The sun over Gideon halted,
Holding aloof the night,
When Joshua's arm was exalted,
Yet never retraced his flight ;
Nor will he turn back, nor can he,
He chases the future fast ;
The future is blank—oh, Annie !
I fain would recall the past.
There are others toiling and straining
'Neath burdens graver than mine ;
They are weary, yet uncomplaining—
I know it, yet I repine ;
I know it, how time will ravage,
How time will level, and yet
I long with a longing savage,
I regret with a fierce regret.
You are no false ideal,
Something is left of you,
Present, perceptible, real,
Palpable, tangible, true ;
One shred of your broken necklace,
One tress of your pale, gold hair,
And a heart so utterly reckless,
That the worst it would gladly dare.
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"Wormwood and Nightshade" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 17 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/198/wormwood-and-nightshade>.