Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Extracts from The Legend of Jubal: ‘O may I join the choir invisible’
By George Eliot (Mary Ann Cross) (1819–1880)
 
 Longum illud tempus, quum non ero, magis me movet, quam hoc exiguum.
—Cicero, ad Att. xii. 18.    

O MAY I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence: live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn        5
For miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge man’s search
To vaster issues.
                    So to live is heaven:
To make undying music in the world,        10
Breathing as beauteous order that controls
With growing sway the growing life of man.
So we inherit that sweet purity
For which we struggled, failed, and agonized
With widening retrospect that bred despair.        15
Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,
A vicious parent shaming still its child,
Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolved;
Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies,
Die in the large and charitable air.        20
And all our rarer, better, truer self,
That sobbed religiously in yearning song,
That watched to ease the burthen of the world,
Laboriously tracing what must be,
And what may yet be better—saw within        25
A worthier image for the sanctuary,
And shaped it forth before the multitude
Divinely human, raising worship so
To higher reverence more mixed with love—
That better self shall live till human Time        30
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb
Unread for ever.
                This is life to come,
Which martyred men have made more glorious
For us who strive to follow. May I reach        35
That purest heaven, be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardour, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty—
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,        40
And in diffusion ever more intense.
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world.

  1867.
 
 
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