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Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Human Life


If dead, we cease to be; if total gloom
Swallow up life's brief flash for aye, we fare
As summer-gusts, of sudden birth and doom,
Whose sound and motion not alone declare,
But are their whole of being! If the breath
Be Life itself, and not its task and tent,
If even a soul like Milton's can know death;
O Man! thou vessel purposeless, unmeant,
Yet drone-hive strange of phantom purposes!
Surplus of Nature's dread activity,
Which, as she gazed on some nigh-finished vase,
Retreating slow, with meditative pause,
She formed with restless hands unconsciously.
Blank accident! nothing's anomaly!
If rootless thus, thus substanceless thy state,
Go, weigh thy dreams, and be thy hopes, thy fears,
The counter-weights!--Thy laughter and thy tears
Mean but themselves, each fittest to create
And to repay the other! Why rejoices
Thy heart with hollow joy for hollow good?
Why cowl thy face beneath the mourner's hood?
Why waste thy sighs, and thy lamenting voices,
Image of Image, Ghost of Ghostly Elf,
That such a thing as thou feel'st warm or cold?
Yet what and whence thy gain, if thou withhold
These costless shadows of thy shadowy self?
Be sad! be glad! be neither! seek, or shun!
Thou hast no reason why! Thou canst have none;
Thy being's being is contradiction. 



                      Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Samuel Taylor Coleridge's other poems:
  1. An Invocation
  2. Devonshire Roads
  3. Inscription for a Fountain on a Heath
  4. This Lime-tree Bower my Prison
  5. Julia


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Matthew Arnold Human Life ("What mortal, when he saw")
  • Bernard Barton Human Life ("I walk'd the fields at morning's prime")

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