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Ode to Happiness. Spirit, that rarely comest now,


  Spirit, that rarely comest now,
  And only to contrast my gloom,
  Like rainbow-feathered birds that bloom
  A moment on some autumn bough
  Which, with the spurn of their farewell,
  Sheds its last leaves,—thou once didst dwell
  With me year-long, and make intense
  To boyhood's wisely-vacant days
  That fleet, but all-sufficing grace
  Of trustful inexperience,
  While yet the soul transfigured sense,
  And thrilled, as with love's first caress,
  At life's mere unexpectedness.


  Those were thy days, blithe spirit, those
  When a June sunshine could fill up
  The chalice of a buttercup
  With such Falernian juice as flows
  No longer,—for the vine is dead
  Whence that inspiring drop was shed:
  Days when my blood would leap and run,
  As full of morning as a breeze,
  Or spray tossed up by summer seas
  That doubts if it be sea or sun;
  Days that flew swiftly, like the band
  That in the Grecian games had strife
  And passed from eager hand to hand
  The onward-dancing torch of life.


  Wing-footed! thou abid'st with him
  Who asks it not; but he who hath
  Watched o'er the waves thy fading path
  Shall nevermore on ocean's rim,
  At morn or eve, behold returning
  Thy high-heaped canvas shoreward yearning!
  Thou first reveal'st to us thy face
  Turned o'er the shoulder's parting grace,
  A moment glimpsed, then seen no more,—
  Thou whose swift footsteps we can trace
  Away from every mortal door!


  Nymph of the unreturning feet,
  How may I woo thee back? But no,
  I do thee wrong to call thee so;
  'Tis we are changed, not thou art fleet:
  The man thy presence feels again
  Not in the blood, but in the brain,
  Spirit, that lov'st the upper air,
  Serene and vaporless and rare,
  Such as on mountain-heights we find
  And wide-viewed uplands of the mind,
  Or such as scorns to coil and sing
  Round any but the eagle's wing
  Of souls that with long upward beat
  Have won an undisturbed retreat,
  Where, poised like wingèd victories,
  They mirror in unflinching eyes
  The life broad-basking 'neath their feet,—
  Man always with his Now at strife,
  Pained with first gasps of earthly air,
  Then begging Death the last to spare,
  Still fearful of the ampler life.


  Not unto them dost thou consent
  Who, passionless, can lead at ease
  A life of unalloyed content,
  A life like that of landlocked seas,
  That feel no elemental gush
  Of tidal forces, no fierce rush
  Of storm deep-grasping, scarcely spent
  'Twixt continent and continent:
  Such quiet souls have never known
  Thy truer inspiration, thou
  Who lov'st to feel upon thy brow
  Spray from the plunging vessel thrown,
  Grazing the tusked lee shore, the cliff
  That o'er the abrupt gorge holds its breath,
  Where the frail hair's-breadth of an If
  Is all that sunders life and death:
  These, too, are cared for, and round these
  Bends her mild crook thy sister Peace;
  These in unvexed dependence lie
  Each 'neath his space of household sky;
  O'er them clouds wander, or the blue
  Hangs motionless the whole day through;
  Stars rise for them, and moons grow large
  And lessen in such tranquil wise
  As joys and sorrows do that rise
  Within their nature's sheltered marge;
  Their hours into each other flit,
  Like the leaf-shadows of the vine
  And fig-tree under which they sit;
  And their still lives to heaven incline
  With an unconscious habitude,
  Unhistoried as smokes that rise
  From happy hearths and sight elude
  In kindred blue of morning skies.


  Wayward! when once we feel thy lack,
  'Tis worse than vain to tempt thee back!
  Yet there is one who seems to be
  Thine elder sister, in whose eyes
  A faint, far northern light will rise
  Sometimes and bring a dream of thee:
  She is not that for which youth hoped;
  But she hath blessings all her own,
  Thoughts pure as lilies newly oped,
  And faith to sorrow given alone:
  Almost I deem that it is thou
  Come back with graver matron brow,
  With deepened eyes and bated breath,
  Like one who somewhere had met Death.
  "But no," she answers, "I am she
  Whom the gods love, Tranquillity;
  That other whom you seek forlorn.
  Half-earthly was; but I am born
  Of the immortals, and our race
  Have still some sadness in our face:
  He wins me late, but keeps me long,
  Who, dowered with every gift of passion,
  In that fierce flame can forge and fashion
  Of sin and self the anchor strong;
  Can thence compel the driving force
  Of daily life's mechanic course,
  Nor less the nobler energies
  Of needful toil and culture wise:
  Whose soul is worth the tempter's lure,
  Who can renounce and yet endure,
  To him I come, not lightly wooed,
  And won by silent fortitude."