OUR mortal day breaks from the great unseen,
Whither once more it darkly vanisheth ;
Two shadowy goals with faltering steps between,—
O, tell me, which is life, and which is death ?
Nor is this but an idle questioning;
For every step must cross some dark surprise,
Since life and death are what the moments bring,
And we would know them through their strange disguise.
Joys we shall have that blossomed in the shade,
And griefs that out of sweetest dreams awoke ;
Doubts that grow clear, and certainties that fade ;
A weary crown, a light and easy yoke.
Wrongs we shall see made servants of the right;
The noblest victories won by those that fail ;
Great hearts that triumph, falling in the fight ;
Death hand to hand with life, behind the veil !
Thus evermore we must our pathway thread,
’Mid lights that beckon, shadows that dismay;
Till the bewildered heart, so strangely led,
Wonders if life or death shall win the day,
As one might wonder, waking from a swoon,
And seeing the far horizon half alight, —
Is it the morning broadening to the noon ?
Or is it evening sinking into night ?
Or as one standing on the silent shore
If it be ebb or flow can scarcely guess;
Whether the lesser flowing to the more,
Or but the greater lapsing to the less.
O shrouded mystery ! the baffled soul,
Long coasting round thy solemn boundaries,
Divines the rounded brightness of the whole,
That first must wane upon these mortal skies.
The tide, when it lays bare the lonely strand,
But lifts more high the great mid-deeps of sea :
Does death work life? Does losing fill the hand?
Does darkness feed the light that is to be ?
O, then it is no longer life and death,
But life and life, in ever-circling light!
Then ebb and flow of fortune or of breath
Are equal tides that lift us to our height !
Louisa Bushnell.