Ada Cambridge 1844 (St Germans, Norfolk) – 1926 (Melbourne)
Why should we care for storms that rave and rend,
Safe at our household hearth?
Unknowing whence we came, or where we wend,
Why should we ache and toil, and waste and spend,
Treading from no beginning to no end,
An uncrowned martyr's path?
Is it worth while to suffer, when we might,
Like happier men, be blest
With that dull blindness that desires no light,
That peaceful soul that feels no need to fight,
Nor thirsts for liberty, and truth, and right,
But lives its life at rest?
Is it worth while to work, and strive, and learn —
To sow where none may reap?
Is it worth while to rage, and fret, and yearn
For nameless treasure that we cannot earn?
Is it worth while in fever- fires to burn,
While wise men eat and sleep?
Is it worth while to care for praise or blame,
This little time we live,
When purest deeds are oftenest put to shame?
To pant for noble strife and lofty fame,
When gold seems better than a stainless name,
Or all the world can give?
Is it worth while for friendship's gift to sue,
For friendship's joys to crave?
When sordid tests, that bring us ruth and rue,
And sorrowful years, alone discern the clue
That tells us what is false and what is true,
And what we lose or save?
To open wide our sanctuary door
Some welcome guest to greet,
To find, perchance, when we have shown our store,
The sacred places rudely trampled o'er,
Bereaved, profaned, and soiled for evermore
With tread of vulgar feet?
Is it worth while to love — though love find grace
In our belovèd's sight?
To bear a restless heart from place to place,
Hungry for sight of one transcendent face,
That shines our central sun in azure space,
Or leaves our world in night:
And, after all, to gain no more than this
At such a life- long cost —
A taste, a glimpse, the memory of a kiss,
A speechless sense of what diviner bliss,
That might have been, we have contrived to miss —
To know what love has lost?
Is it worth while — O sadder fate! — to heed
The solemn chime that knells
The death hour of an immemorial creed —
A staff of strength become a broken reed —
And never friendlier help in time of need,
Nor surer guide, foretells?
To heed the spirit- voice that bids us take
A strange new road alone;
From gentle slumber and sweet dreams to wake,
And hear the mighty billows boom and break —
The thunder of immortal seas that shake
The earth's foundation- stone?
Is it worth while, so far away as we,
To long, in hope and dread,
For the great unborn Age that is to be —
To pine for light that we shall never see —
To care what course man's life and destiny
May take when we are dead?
Is it worth while to toil in doubt and fear,
Through thorny ways like these,
When they who turn blind eye and heedless ear
To change and portent, and who see nor hear
The pregnant storm that gathers far and near,
Dwell all their days at ease?
To leave the Good whereof we are possest,
To search, in gloom and grief,
Through pathless trouble, for some 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?
Is it worth while to wear out heart and brain?
Ah me, what must be must!
The maddening Mystery cannot be made plain,
And they who seek to solve it seek in vain,
Yet can but seek, in sleepless hope and pain,
Till heart and brain are dust.
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