“O May I Join the Choir Invisible”
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"O May I Join the Choir Invisible"
Longum illud tempus, quum non ero, magis me movet, quam hoc exigium.
—CICERO, ad Att., xii. 18.
- O may I join the choir invisible
- Of those immortal dead who live again
- In minds made better by their presence: live
- In pulses stirred to generosity,
- In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
- For miserable aims that end with self,
- In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
- And with their mild persistence urge man's search
- To vaster issues.
- So to live is heaven:
- To make undying music in the world,
- Breathing as beauteous order that controls
- With growing sway the growing life of man.
- So we inherit that sweet purity
- For which we struggled, failed, and agonised
- With widening retrospect that bred despair.
- Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,
- A vicious parent shaming still its child
- Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolved;
- Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies,
- Die in the large and charitable air.
- And all our rarer, better, truer self,
- That sobbed religiously in yearning song,
- That watched to ease the burthen of the world,
- Laboriously tracing what must be,
- And what may yet be better— saw within
- A worthier image for the sanctuary,
- And shaped it forth before the multitude
- Divinely human, raising worship so
- To higher reference more mixed with love—
- That better self shall live till human Time
- Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
- Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb
- Unread for ever.
- This is life to come,
- Which martyred men have made more glorious
- For us who strive to follow. May I reach
- That purest heaven, be to other souls
- The cup of strength in some great agony,
- Enkindle generous ardour, feed pure love,
- Beget the smiles that have no cruelty—
- Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
- And in diffusion ever more intense.
- So shall I join the choir invisible
- Whose music is the gladness of the world.