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Poem by Bessie Rayner Parkes

Lifes River

ON the still water of our childish days
The noonday blue and midnight heaven look down,
Painting themselves, while every drooping flower
Or lovely human thing which haunts its bank
Lives in the mirror with a fairer life.
Perchance some holy and love-gleaming eyes
Gaze in our stream, or music-voiced prayer
Ripples the water and floats up to God;
But comes a blustering wind, do earthquakes split
The trembling globe, does winter's thralling ice
Hem in our little path,--and all the peace
Of this our life is gone, and we go forth
With troublous murmur to encounter man.
Nay, less than this, the petty trivial cares,
The pebbles flung by hand of idle boys,
The fall of leaves upon our waters, and
The noiseless drop of an unceasing rain,
Such little worthless trifles have the power
To mar our glorious mirror; no more stars
Lose themselves, gliding thro' the dark twin depths;
And he who seeks to find within our breast
Aught of tranquillity or loveliness,
Finds fragments of a thousand jumbled things,
Circle on circle, and the roll confus'd
Of unreflective wave succeeding wave,

Grief restless and complaining, and past joy,
Sadder than sorrow, and a broken tale
Of our life's picture; many days must pass
Ere the chaf'd waters gain their wonted calm,
And then--the leaves have fallen, and the wind
Has kill'd the flowers; another time of year
Has laid our love in the grave, and gather'd fogs
Obscure the glory of the midnight stars.

What then, sad spirit? leaving field and glade,
And thy sweet progress between blossoming banks,
There is no less a glorious destiny
For thy vex'd waters; stately ships shall ride
In triumph on thy bosom, populous towns
Murmur beside thee, noble work be thine,
Till thou at last shalt lose thyself within
The infinite ocean, and find infinite peace.

Bessie Rayner Parkes

Bessie Rayner Parkes's other poems:
  1. The Old Chateau
  2. Rome
  3. On a Group of Justice and Charity
  4. A Midsummer Nights Dream
  5. The Mersey and the Irwell

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