Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
From Human Life, or the Denial of Immortality

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)
IF, 1 dead, we cease to be; if total gloom
Swallow up life’s brief flash …
O Man, thou vessel purposeless, unmeant!…
If rootless thus, thus substanceless thy state,
Go, weigh thy dreams, and be thy hopes, thy fears,        5
The counter-weights!—Thy laughter and thy tears
Mean but themselves, each fittest to create
And to repay each other! Why rejoices
Thy heart with hollow joy for hollow good?
Why cowl thy face beneath the mourner’s hood,        10
Why waste thy sighs, and thy lamenting voices,
Image of image, ghost of ghostly elf,
That such a thing as thou feel’st warm or cold?
Yet what and whence thy gain, if thou withhold
These costless shadows of thy shadowy self?        15
Be sad! be glad! be neither! seek, or shun!
Thou hast no reason why! Thou canst have none;
Thy being’s being is contradiction.
Note 1. Coleridge. From Human Life, or the denial of Immortality. ‘Sibylline Leaves’. I cannot tell whether the sibilants in line 4 were intended. [back]

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