Restlessness by George Houghton

Weary with waiting, we climb to the hill-tops nearest to heaven,
Find only floating fogs, and air to meagre to nourish;
Seeking the depths of the sea, we drop our plummets and feel them,
Draw them in empty, or yellowed with clay, that melts and tells nothing;

Forests we thread, wide prairies unfenced, and drenchéd morasses,
Strike, with the fervor of youth, to the heart of the tenantless deserts,
Turn every boulder, still hoping to find beneath them some prophet.–
Find only thistles unsunn’d, green sloth, and passionless creatures.

Youth flitted by us, we faint, then sink in the ruts of our fathers;
Shift as we may with the old beliefs, and beat on our bosoms;
Seek less and hunger less keenly, still sorrow for self and for others,
Striving, by travail and tears, life’s deeper meaning to strangle;

Drag from sunset to sunset, too fainting to fear for the morrow,
Suffer, complain of our loads, but catch at their withes as they leave us,
Letting the song-birds escape, perceiving not till they’ve fluttered,–
Bitterly weeping then, as we watch them die in the distance.

Struggling, we snatch at straws; call out, expecting no answer;
Pray, but without any faith; grow laggard and laugh at our anguish;
Sin, and with wine-cup deadened, scoff at the dread of hereafter,–
And, because all seems lost, besiege Death’s doorway with gladness.
Better we had not been, for what is the goal of such striving?

Bubbles that glitter perchance, to burst in thin air as they glitter!
Comets that cleave the night, to leave the night but the darker!
Smudge that bursts into flame, but only in smoke to be smothered!
Out of the gifts of our spring, that only is beautiful counted
Which with the day-dawn breaks bud, and dies ere the dew-drops have left it;

Smiles there are no healthfuler clime, where forms that are fair never perish,
But in a life-giving ether grow fairer with ripening seasons?
Iroquois god, I adore thee, because thou art lasting and mighty,
Turn and gaze at thee, going, as on an all-marvelous vision,
Dread thee, thou art so serene,–but hate thee with hatred most bitter,
Taunter of all who dabble thy foam, and think to discover.


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