Caroline Bowles Southey



Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof.

by Caroline Bowles Southey

O, By that gracious rule
Were we but wise to steer
On the wide sea of thought,
What moments, trouble-fraught,
Were spared us here!

But we, (perverse and blind,)
As covetous of pain,
Not only seek for more
Yet hidden, but live o'er
The past again.

This life is called brief;
Man on the earth but crawls
His threescore years and ten, --
At best fourscore, -- and then
The ripe fruit falls.

Yet, betwixt birth and death,
Were but the life of man
By his thoughts measured,
To what an age would spread
That little span!

There are who're born and die, --
Eat, sleep, walk, rest between,
Talk, act by clockwork too;
So pass, in order due,
Over the scene; --

With whom the past is past,
The future, nothing yet;
And so, from day to day,
They breathe, till called to pay
The last great debt.

Their life, in truth, is brief;
A speck -- a point of time,
Whether in good old age
Ending their pilgrimage,
Or in its prime

But other some there are,
(I call them not more wise,)
In whom the restless mind
Still lingereth behind,
Or forward flies.

With these, things pass away;
But past things are not dead;
In the heart's treasury,
Deep-hidden, dead they lie,

And there the soul retires
From the dull things that are,
To mingle, oft and long,
With the time-hallowed throng
Of those that were.

Then into life start out
The scenes long vanished;
Then we behold again
The forms that have long lain
Among the dead.

We seek their grasp of love,
We meet their beaming eye;
We speak -- the vision's flown,
Dissolving with its own

Years rapidly shift on,
(Like clouds athwart the sky,)
And lo! sad watch we keep,
When in perturbed sleep
The sick doth lie.

We gaze on some pale face,
Shown by the dim watch-light;
Shuddering, we gaze, and pray,
And weep, and wish away
The long, long night.

And yet minutest things,
That mark time's tedious tread,
Are on the feverish brain,
With self-protracting pain,
Deep minuted; --

The drops with trembling hand
(Love-steadied) poured out;
The draught replenished,
The label oft re-read
With nervous doubt; --

The watch, that ticks so loud;
The winding it for one
Whose hand lies powerless;
And then the fearful guess,
Ere this hath run

The shutter, half unclosed
As the night wears away,
Ere the last stars are set, --
Pale stars! that linger yet
Till perfect day; --

The morn, so oft invoked,
That bringeth no relief;
From which, with sickening sight,
We turn, as if its light
But mocked our grief!

O, never, after dawn,
For us the east shall streak,
But we shall see again,
With the same thoughts as then,
That pale day-break! --

The desolate awakening,
When first we feel alone; --
Dread memories are these;
Yet who for heartless ease
Would exchange one?

These are the soul's hid wealth --
Relics embalmed with tears.
Or, if her curious eye
Searches futurity, --
The depth of years, --

There (from the deck of youth)
Enchanted land she sees;
Blue skies and sun-bright bowers
Reflected, and tall towers,
On glassy seas.

But heavy clouds collect
Over that bright-blue sky,
And rough winds rend the trees,
And lash those glassy seas
To billows high.

And then, the last thing seen
By that dim light may be
(With helm and rudder lost)
A lone wreck, tempest-tost,
On the dark sea.

Thus doth the soul extend
Her brief existence here
Thus multiplieth she
(Yea, to infinity)
The short career

Presumptuous and unwise.
As if the present sum
Were little of life's woe!
Why seeketh she to know
Ills yet to come?

Look up, look up, my soul,
To loftier mysteries!
Trust in his word to thee
Who saith,All tears shall be
Wiped from all eyes.

And when thou turnest back,
(O, what can chain thee here?)
Seek out the isles of light
On memory's waste yet bright;
Or, if too near.

To desolate plains they lie,
All dark with guilt and tears,
Still, still retrace the past,
Till thou alight, at last,
On life's first years.

There not a passing cloud
Obscures the sunny scene;
No blight on the young tree;
No thought of what may be,
Or what hath been.

There all is hope -- not hope,
For all things Ire possessed;
No -- bliss without alloy,
And innocence and joy,
In the young breast;

And all-confiding love,
And holy ignorance,
Thrice blessed veil! soon torn
From eyes foredoomed to mourn
For man's offence.

O, thither, weary spirit,
Flee from this world defiled.
How oft, heart-sick and sore,
I've wished I were once more
A little child!


The Floral Wreath Of Autumn Flowers
Copyright 1850
Detroit: Kerr, Doughty and Lapham