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Bayard Taylor

Jan. 11, 1825 - Dec 19, 1878


Orpheus (Not Minos, iron judge, alone shall speak)

by Bayard Taylor

Not Minos, iron judge, alone shall speak
Our final sentence; but the balance hangs,
Even while we live, in sight of all the Gods.
Our fates are weighed, and less unequal seem
To calm Olympian eyes, than ours, obscured
By films inseparate from this cloudy earth.
As one who, sitting on the high-prowed ship,
Sees not the rosy splendor of the sail
At mormug, when, a planet of the sea,
It shines afar to dwellers on the land;
So we the later radiance of our lives,
Now shining, see not. We have toiled, 't is true:
Stared Danger's lion boldly in the face
Until he turned: borne wounds and racking pains;
The frosts of Colchian winters, and the fire
That darts from Cancer on the Libyan shore:
Brief joy, brief rest, stern labor, suffering,
Are ours, -- yet have we kept, as heroes should,
The steady cheerfulness of temperate hearts,
Courage, and mutual trust. We shall not leave
The vapid dust of idlers in our urns:
Behind our lives shall burn the shining tracks
Of splendid deeds, and men long after us
Shall build the steadfast mansion of our fame.
What here we lose, shall be our portion there
Among the Happy Fields, -- divine repose
Eternally prolonged, and blameless joy.
We in that larger freedom of the blest
Heroic shades, shall find our chosen seats.
This restless life beneath the hollow sky,
And looking o'er the edges of the world
Far from the anchored shores, the tongues of air,
The doubtful voices heard in sounding caves
Where gods abide, dim whispers, teaching us,
God-like, the secrets of the elements,
Have smoothed our entrance to the ample realms
Where Youth returns, and Joy, so timorous now,
Drops, like a weary dove, to fly no more.


The Poet's Journal
Copyright 1863
Ticknor and Fields, Boston