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Poem by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The Desire of Fame

     Written at the age of thirty.

  I do confess that I have wish'd to give
    My land the gift of no ignoble name.
  And in that holier air have sought to live,
            Sunn'd with the hope of Fame.

  Do I lament that I have seen the bays
    Denied my own, not worthier brows above,--
  Foes quick to scoff, and friends afraid to praise,--
            More active hate than love?

  Do I lament that roseate youth has flown
    In the hard labour grudged its niggard meed,
  And cull from far and juster lands alone
            Few flowers from many a seed?

  No! for whoever with an earnest soul
    Strives for some end from this low world afar,
  Still upward travels, though he miss the goal,
            And strays--but towards a star.

  Better than fame is still the wish for fame,
    The constant training for a glorious strife:
  The athlete nurtured for the Olympian Game
            Gains strength at least for life.

  The wish for Fame is faith in holy things
    That soothe the life, and shall outlive the tomb--
  A reverent listening for some angel wings
            That cower above the gloom.

  To gladden earth with beauty, or men's lives
    To serve with action, or their souls with truth,--
  These are the ends for which the hope survives
            The ignobler thirsts of youth.

  No, I lament not, though these leaves may fall
    From the sered branches on the desert plain,
  Mock'd by the idle winds that waft; and all
            Life's blooms, its last, in vain!

  If vain for others, not in vain for me,--
    Who builds an altar let him worship there;
  What needs the crowd? though lone the shrine may be,
            Not hallow'd less the prayer.

  Eno' if haply in the after days,
    When by the altar sleeps the funeral stone,
  When gone the mists our human passions raise,
            And Truth is seen alone:

  When causeless Hate can wound its prey no more,
    And fawns its late repentance o'er the dead,
  If gentle footsteps from some kindlier shore
            Pause by the narrow bed.

  Or if yon children, whose young sounds of glee
    Float to mine ear the evening gales along,
  Recall some echo, in their years to be,
            Of not all-perish'd song!

  Taking some spark to glad the hearth, or light
    The student lamp, from now neglected fires,--
  And one sad memory in the sons requite
            What--I forgive the sires.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Bulwer-Lytton's other poems:
  1. The Love of Maturer Years
  2. Lost and Avenged
  3. The Loyalty of Love
  4. The Treasures by the Wayside
  5. Address to the Soul in Despondency

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