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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Aspiration
By Edward William Thomson (1849–1924)
 
MY friend conceived the soul hereafter dwells
In any heaven the inmost heart desires,
The heart, which craves delight, at pain rebels,
And balks, or obeys the soul till life expires.
 
He deem’d that all the eternal Force contrives        5
Is wrought to revigorate its own control,
And that its alchemy some strength derives
From every tested and unflagging soul.
 
He deem’d a spirit which avails to guide
A human heart, gives proof of energy        10
To be received in That which never bides,
But ever toils for what can never be—
 
A perfect All—toward which the Eternal strives
To urge for ever every atom’s range,
The Ideal, which never unto Form arrives,        15
Because new concept emanates from change.
 
He deem’d the inmost heart is what aligns
Man’s aspiration, noble or impure,
And that immortal Tolerance assigns
Each soul what Aspiration would secure.        20
 
And if it choose what highest souls would rue—
Some endless round of mortal joys inane—
Such fate befits what souls could not subdue
The heart’s poor shrinking from the chrism of pain.
*        *        *        *        *
My friend review’d, nigh death, how staunch the soul        25
Had waged in him a conflict, never done,
To rule the dual self that fought control,
Spirit and flesh inextricably one.
 
His passionless judgement ponder’d well the past,
Patient, relentless, ere he spoke sincere,—        30
‘Through all the strife my soul prevail’d at last,
It rules my inmost heart’s desire here;
 
‘My Will craves not some paradise of zest
Where mortal joys eternally renew,
Nor blank nirvana, nor elysian rest,        35
Nor palaced pomp to bombast fancy true;
 
‘It yearns no whit to swell some choiring strain
In endless amplitudes of useless praise;
It dares to aspire to share the immortal pain
Of toil in moulding Form from phase to phase.        40
 
‘To me, of old, such fate some terror bore,
But now great gladness in my spirit glows,
While death clings round me friendlier than before,
To loose the soul that mounts beyond repose.’
*        *        *        *        *
Yet, at the end, from seeming death he stirr’d        45
As one whose sleep is broke by sudden shine,
And whisper’d Christ, as if the soul had heard
Tidings of some exceeding sweet design.
 
 
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