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   English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
326. Life
 
Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743–1825)
 
 
LIFE! I know not what thou art,
But know that thou and I must part;
And when, or how, or where we met,
I own to me’s a secret yet.
But this I know, when thou art fled,        5
Where’er they lay these limbs, this head,
No clod so valueless shall be
As all that then remains of me.
 
O whither, whither, dost thou fly?
Where bend unseen thy trackless course?        10
  And in this strange divorce,
Ah, tell where I must seek this compound I?
To the vast ocean of empyreal flame
  From whence thy essence came
Dost thou thy flight pursue, when freed        15
From matter’s base encumbering weed?
  Or dost thou, hid from sight,
  Wait, like some spell-bound knight,
Through blank oblivious years th’ appointed hour
To break thy trance and reassume thy power?        20
Yet canst thou without thought or feeling be?
O say, what art thou, when no more thou’rt thee?
 
Life! we have been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
  ’Tis hard to part when friends are dear;        25
  Perhaps ’twill cost a sigh, a tear;—
  Then steal away, give little warning,
      Choose thine own time;
Say not Good-night, but in some brighter clime
      Bid me Good-morning!        30
 

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