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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Poems. IV. A Colloquy with Myself

Bernard Barton (1784–1849)

  • “As I walked by myself, I talked to myself,
  • And myself replied to me;
  • And the questions myself then put to myself
  • With their answers, I give to thee.
  • Put them home to thyself, and if unto thyself
  • Their responses the same should be,
  • Oh! look well to thyself, and beware of thyself,
  • Or so much the worse for thee.”

  • WHAT are riches? Hoarded treasures

    May, indeed, thy coffers fill;

    Yet, like earth’s most fleeting pleasures,

    Leave thee poor and heartless still.

    What is Pleasure? When afforded

    But by gauds that pass away,

    Read its fate in lines recorded

    On the sea-sands yesterday.

    What is Fashion? Ask of Folly,

    She her worth can best express.

    What is moping Melancholy?

    Go and learn of Idleness.

    What is Truth? Too stern a preacher

    For the prosperous and the gay;

    But a safe and wholesome teacher

    In Adversity’s dark day.

    What is Friendship? If well founded,

    Like some beacon’s heavenward glow:

    If on false pretensions grounded

    Like the treacherous sand below.

    What is Love? If earthly only,

    Like a meteor of the night

    Shining but to leave more lonely

    Hearts that hailed its transient light:

    But when calm, refined, and tender,

    Purified from passion’s stain,

    Like the moon, in gentle splendour,

    Ruling o’er the peaceful main.

    What are Hopes? But gleams of brightness,

    Glancing darkest clouds between;

    Or foam-crested waves, whose whiteness

    Gladdens ocean’s darksome green.

    What are Fears? Grim phantoms, throwing

    Shadows o’er the pilgrim’s way,

    Every moment darker growing,

    If we yield unto their sway.

    What is Mirth? A flash of lightning,

    Followed but by deeper gloom.

    Patience?—More than sunshine, bright’ning

    Sorrow’s path, and labour’s doom.

    What is Time? A river flowing

    To Eternity’s vast sea;

    Forward, whither all are going,

    On its bosom bearing thee.

    What is Life? A bubble floating,

    On that silent, rapid stream;

    Few, too few, its progress noting,

    Till it bursts, and ends the dream.

    What is Death, asunder rending

    Every tie we love so well?

    But the gate to life unending,

    Joy, in heaven! or, woe in hell!

    Can these truths, by repetition,

    Lose their magnitude or weight?

    Estimate thine own condition,

    Ere thou pass that fearful gate.

    Hast thou heard them oft repeated?

    Much may still be left to do:

    Be not by profession cheated;

    Live—as if thou knew’st them true.