Merry, merry little Stream,
Tell me, hast thou seen my dear?
I left him with an azure dream,
Calmly sleeping on his bier—
But he has fled!
‘I passed him in his churchyard bed—
A yew is sighing o’er his head,
And grass-roots mingle with his hair.’
What doth he there?
O cruel! can he lie alone?
Or in the arms of one more dear?
Or hides he in that bower of stone,
To cause and kiss away my fear?
‘He doth not speak, he doth not moan—
Blind, motionless, he lies alone;
But, ere the grave snake fleshed his sting,
This one warm tear he bade me bring
And lay it at thy feet
Among the daisies sweet.’
Moonlight whisperer, summer air,
Songstress of the groves above,
Tell the maiden rose I wear,
Whether thou hast seen my love.
‘This night in heaven I saw him lie,
Discontented with his bliss;
And on my lips he left this kiss,
For thee to taste and then to die.’
—Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803—1849)
Hopes what are they?—Beads of morning
Strung on slender blades of grass;
Or a spider’s web adorning
In a strait and treacherous pass.
What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not;
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot!
What is glory?—in the socket
See how dying tapers fare!
What is pride?—a whizzing rocket
That would emulate a star.
What is friendship?—do not trust her,
Nor the vows which she has made;
Diamonds dart their brightest lustre
From a palsy-shaken head.
What is truth?—a staff rejected;
Duty?—an unwelcome clog;
Joy?—a moon by fits reflected
In a swamp or watery bog;
Bright, as if through ether steering,
To the Traveller’s eye it shone:
He hath hailed it re-appearing—
And as quickly it is gone;
Such is Joy—as quickly hidden,
Or mis-shapen to the sight,
And by sullen weeds forbidden
To resume its native light.
What is youth?—a dancing billow,
(Winds behind, and rocks before!)
Age?—a drooping, tottering willow
On a flat and lazy shore.
What is peace?—when pain is over,
And love ceases to rebel,
Let the last faint sigh discover
That precedes the passing knell!
—William Wordsworth (1770—1850)
Here lies in earth a root of Hell
Set by the Deil’s ain dibble:
This worthless body damn’d himsel
To save the Lord the trouble.
—Robert Burns (1759—1796)