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Poem by John Frederick William Herschel

Tick! Tick! Tick!

(occasioned by an irregular ode to an old Clock, by Lady )

Mine eyes are dim with fruitless tears,
     My heart is idly stirred:
For the same sound is in my ear
     As once in youth I heard  (Wordsworth)


I have a clock, and there it stands
		Against my study wall;
The same old dialplate and hands
	My earliest thoughts Recal.

That clock was like no vulgar clock,
	It told no time of day
When dawn aroused the crowing cock
	Its noon had passed away.

It marked no eve, nor matin prime,
	No hour for woe or weal.
Who looked to it for dinner time
	Might go without a meal.

Yet still it ticked  nor slow nor fast
	Its rate was ever found,
While Sun, Moon, Stars, and planets passed
	Each on its destined round.

And yet, with every beat it made
	With every beat it makes
A human life away must fade, 
	A human life awakes.

Like sand-corns on the shore of time
	They fall  nor stop nor stay 
Till the great debt be paid, and crime
	And grief be swept away.


I have a clock of diffrent mould.
	Nor catgut, brass, nor steel
A place within its frame doth hold,
	Bob, pendulum, or wheel.

Whereer I go, by land, by sea
	From earliest infancy
At home, abroad, by night, by day
	It bears me company.

I wind it not, I set it not
	I know not how it goes.
It hath no face, no hands, I wot.
	No hour, no time it shews.

Ah! how irregular its beat!
	Hope, fear, Love, joy, surprize
A word, a look, a fond conceit
	To change its Rate suffice.

Its beats are numbered. More or few
	I know not,  would not know:
Content to stay, while aught to do
	Remains:  rejoiced to go.

Collingwood, Jan. 23. 1865

John Frederick William Herschel

John Frederick William Herschel's other poems:
  1. On Burning a Parcel of Old MSS

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