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Bayard Taylor

Jan. 11, 1825 - Dec 19, 1878


The Voice Of The Tempter

by Bayard Taylor

Last night the Tempter came to me, and said:
Why sorrow any longer for the dead?
The wrong is done: thy tears and groans are naught:
Forget the Past, -- thy pain but lives in thought.
Night after night, I hear thy cries implore
An answer: she will answer thee no more.
Give up thine idle prayer that Death may come
And thou mayst somewhere find her: Death is dumb
To those that seek him. Live: for youth is thine.
Let not thy rich blood, like neglected wine,
Grow thin and stale, but rouse thyself, at last,
And take a man's revenge upon the Past
What have thy virtues brought thee? Let them go,
And with them lose the burden of thy woe,
Their only payment for thy service hard:
They but exact, thou see'st, and not reward.

Thy life is cheated, thou art cast aside
In dust, the worn-out vessel of their pride.
Come, take thy pleasure: others do the same,
And love is theirs, and fortune, name and fame!
Let not the name of Vice thine ear affright:
Vice is no darkness, but a different light,
Which thou dost need, to see thy path aright;
Or if some pang in this experience lie,
Through counter-pain thy present pain will die.
Bethink thee of the lost, the barren years,
Of harsh privations, unavailing tears,
The steady ache of strong desires restrained,
And what thou hast deserved, and what obtained:
Then go, thou fool! and, if thou canst, rejoice
To make such base ingratitude thy choice,
While each indulgence which thy brethren taste,
But mocks thy palate, as it runs to waste!

So spake the Tempter, as he held outspread
Alluring pictures round my prostrate head.
'Twixt sleep and waking, in my helpless ear
His honeyed voice rang musical and clear;
And half persuaded, shaken half with fear,
I heard him, till the Morn began to shine,
And found her brow less dewy-wet than mine.


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