Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Soothsay
By Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
 
LET no man ask thee of anything
Not yearborn between Spring and Spring.
More of all worlds than he can know,
Each day the single sun doth show.
A trustier gloss than thou canst give        5
From all wise scrolls demonstrative,
The sea doth sigh and the wind sing.
 
Let no man awe thee on any height
Of earthly kingship’s mouldering might.
The dust his heel holds meet for thy brow        10
Hath all of it been what both are now;
And thou and he may plague together
A beggar’s eyes in some dusty weather
When none that is now knows sound or sight.
 
Crave thou no dower of earthly things        15
Unworthy Hope’s imaginings.
To have brought true birth of Song to be
And to have won hearts to Poesy,
Or anywhere in the sun or rain
To have loved and been beloved again,        20
Is loftiest reach of Hope’s bright wings.
 
The wild waifs cast up by the sea
Are diverse ever seasonably.
Even so the soul-tides still may land
A different drift upon the sand.        25
But one the sea is evermore:
And one be still, ’twixt shore and shore,
As the sea’s life, thy soul in thee.
 
Say, hast thou pride? How then may fit
Thy mood with flatterer’s silk-spun wit?        30
Haply the sweet voice lifts thy crest,
A breeze of fame made manifest.
Nay, but then chaf’st at flattery? Pause:
Be sure thy wrath is not because
It makes thee feel thou lovest it.        35
 
Let thy soul strive that still the same
Be early friendship’s sacred flame.
The affinities have strongest part
In youth, and draw men heart to heart:
As life wears on and finds no rest,        40
The individual in each breast
Is tyrannous to sunder them.
 
In the life-drama’s stern cue-call,
A friend’s a part well-prized by all:
And if thou meet an enemy,        45
What art thou that none such should be?
Even so: but if the two parts run
Into each other and grow one,
Then comes the curtain’s cue to fall.
 
Whate’er by other’s need is claimed        50
More than by thine,—to him unblamed
Resign it: and if he should hold
What more than he thou lack’st, bread, gold
Or any good whereby we live,—
To thee such substance let him give        55
Freely: nor he nor thou be shamed.
 
Strive that thy works prove equal: lest
That work which thou hast done the best
Should come to be to thee at length
(Even as to envy seems the strength        60
Of others) hateful and abhorr’d,—
Thine own above thyself made lord,—
Of self-rebuke the bitterest.
 
Unto the man of yearning thought
And aspiration, to do nought        65
Is in itself almost an act,—
Being chasm-fire and cataract
Of the soul’s utter depths unseal’d.
Yet woe to thee if once thou yield
Unto the act of doing nought!        70
 
How callous seems beyond revoke
The clock with its last listless stroke!
How much too late at length!—to trace
The hour on its forewarning face,
The thing thou hast not dared to do!…        75
Behold, this may be thus! Ere true
It prove, arise and bear thy yoke.
 
Let lore of all Theology
Be to thy soul what it can be:
But know,—the Power that fashions man        80
Measured not out thy little span
For thee to take the meting-rod
In turn, and so approve on God
Thy science of Theometry.
 
To God at best, to Chance at worst,        85
Give thanks for good things, last as first.
But wind-strown blossom is that good
Whose apple is not gratitude.
Even if no prayer uplift thy face,
Let the sweet right to render grace        90
As thy soul’s cherished child be nurs’d.
 
Didst ever say, ‘Lo, I forget’?
Such thought was to remember yet.
As in a gravegarth, count to see
The monuments of memory.        95
Be this thy soul’s appointed scope:—
Gaze onward without claim to hope,
Nor, gazing backward, court regret.
 
 
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