When I was born,
From all the seas of strength Fate filled a chalice,
Saying, This be thy portion, child; this chalice,
Less than a lily’s, thou shalt daily draw
From my great arteries; nor less, nor more.
All substances the cunning chemist Time
Melts down into that liquor of my life,
Friends, foes, joys, fortunes, beauty, and disgust,
And whether I am angry or content,
Indebted or insulted, loved or hurt,
All he distils into sidereal wine,
And brims my little cup; heedless, alas!
Of all he sheds how little it will hold,
How much runs over on the desert sands.
If a new muse draw me with splendid ray,
And I uplift myself into her heaven,
The needs of the first sight absorb my blood,
And all the following hours of the day
Drag a ridiculous age.
To-day, when friends approach, and every hour
Brings book or starbright scroll of genius,
The tiny cup will hold not a bead more,
And all the costly liquor runs to waste,
Nor gives the jealous time one diamond drop
So to be husbanded for poorer days.
Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
Why need I galleries, when a pupil’s draught
After the master’s sketch, fills and o’erfills
My apprehension? Why should I roam,
Who cannot circumnavigate the sea
Of thoughts and things at home, but still adjourn
The nearest matters to another moon?
Why see new men
Who have not understood the old?