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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) TICK I. 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. TICK II. I have a clock of diff’rent mould. Nor catgut, brass, nor steel A place within its frame doth hold, Bob, pendulum, or wheel. Where’er 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
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