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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

From “A Poet’s Hope”

By William Ellery Channing (1818–1901)

[Born in Boston, Mass., 1818. Died, Concord, Mass., 1901. From Poems. 1843.—Poems. Second Series. 1847.]

LADY, there is a hope that all men have,—

Some mercy for their faults, a grassy place

To rest in, and a flower-strown, gentle grave;

Another hope which purifies our race,

That, when that fearful bourne forever past,

They may find rest,—and rest so long to last.

I seek it not, I ask no rest for ever,

My path is onward to the farthest shores,—

Upbear me in your arms, unceasing river,

That from the soul’s clear fountain swiftly pours,

Motionless not, until the end is won,

Which now I feel hath scarcely felt the sun.

To feel, to know, to soar unlimited

’Mid throngs of light-winged angels sweeping far,

And pore upon the realms unvisited

That tessellate the unseen unthought star,—

To be the thing that now I feebly dream

Flashing within my faintest, deepest gleam.

Ah! caverns of my soul! how thick your shade,

Where flows that life by which I faintly see,—

Wave your bright torches, for I need your aid,

Golden-eyed demons of my ancestry!

Your son though blinded hath a light within,

A heavenly fire which ye from suns did win.

And, lady, in thy hope my life will rise

Like the air-voyager, till I upbear

These heavy curtains of my filmy eyes

Into a lighter, more celestial air:

A mortal’s hope shall bear me safely on,

Till I the higher region shall have won.

O Time! O Death! I clasp you in my arms,

For I can soothe an infinite cold sorrow,

And gaze contented on your icy charms

And that wild snow-pile which we call to-morrow;

Sweep on, O soft and azure-lidded sky,

Earth’s waters to your gentle gaze reply.

I am not earth-born, though I here delay;

Hope’s child, I summon infiniter powers,

And laugh to see the mild and sunny day

Smile on the shrunk and thin autumnal hours;

I laugh, for hope hath happy place with me,—

If my bark sinks, ’tis to another sea.