Three Worlds


IN youth the world, a newly blown
Prismatic bubble,
Shows the enchanted soul her own
Enchanting double.
The light and dew of heavenly dreams
Filled my young vision,
And life rose clothed in orient beams,
Bright apparition !
Then love in each fair bosom beat,
A pure emotion ;
And friendship was a long and sweet,
Ideal devotion.
Woman was truth ; and age was then
Holy as hoary.
Strangely about the brows of men
There shone a glory,
A radiance shed by my rapt sight
And reverent spirit;
How changed the life, how paled the light,
As I drew near it!
’T was my own ardent youth (alas,
How unsuspected!)
Whose image in the bubble’s glass
I saw reflected.
O magic youth, that could suffuse
The bright creation
With its own dreams and rainbow hues
Of aspiration !


The wondrous years no more were mine,
When fervent Fancy
Remade the world by her divine,
Sweet necromancy.
But still, as paled that earlier flame,
My zeal grew warmer
To serve my kind ; and I became
A world-reformer.
For every problem then I saw
Some new solution,
Could I remodel human law
And institution !
To wed in work the heart and mind,
Make life a mission
Of wise good-will to all mankind,
Was my ambition.
Bondage and ignorance should cease;
Reason and culture
Should banish war, the dove of peace
Succeed the vulture.
But patiently as I reshaped
The old equation,
I found some factor still escaped
My calculation.
No philosophic scheme, nor act
Of legislature,
Can yoke the storm and cataract
Of human nature.
A thankless task has he who tries
To chip and model
The world to just the form and size
Of his own noddle.
Is it because of hopes long tossed,
Or heart grown harder ?
Now I have also something lost
Of that last ardor.
No dungeon door will cease to creak,
Nor chain be broken,
For any word I hoped to speak,
But leave unspoken.
My noon is past, as many things,
Alas, remind me!
Slowly about my shadow swings,
Lengthening behind me.
The unaccomplished task laid down
I leave to others ;
The voice, the victory, and the crown,
To you, my brothers!
Not doubting, though my lips be dumb,
But trusting wholly
In that fair time which yet shall come, —
Shall come, though slowly.
Not in our hurrying years, but late,
Through generations,
The race shall rise which I await
With perfect patience.
Youth’s brave illusion, manhood’s hope,
Vision of sages,
Are augury and horoscope
Of future ages.
A harp-like sound is in my ear,
A far-off humming:
I see the golden cloud, I hear
The chariots coming!


Nearer and sweeter than I thought
One world has waited,
Though not the world my fancy wrought,
Or hope created:
A world of common light and air,
Of earth and azure ;
Of love girt round by fear, and care
Dearer than pleasure ;
Of simple wants and few, good-will
To friend and neighbor;
And each day’s cup each day must fill
With thought and labor ;
Furtherance and help, with ample scope
For tears and laughter;
Of child-like faith, and earnest hope,
In the hereafter;
Patience in pain ; in every ill,
Cross, and privation,
If not contentment, patience still,
And resignation.
My brother’s wrong I may not right,
But I can share it;
My own I ’ll study less to tight,
And more to bear it.
I ’ll till my little plot of ground,
And pay my taxes,
And let the headlong globe go round
Upon its axis.
Aspire who may to seize the helm
And guide creation ;
If I can rule my little realm
With moderation, —
My own small kingdom, act and thought
And chaste affection,
Trained powers, and passions duly brought
Into subjection,
The world of home, of wife and child, —
Good-by, ambition !
I ’ll live serenely reconciled
To my condition.
With years a richer life begins,
The spirit mellows :
Ripe age gives tone to violins,
Wine, and good fellows.
I ’ll marry action to repose,
Busily idle,
As through great scenes a traveler goes
With slackened bridle.
To loftier aims let me aspire,
To higher beauty;
Freedom to follow my desire
Be one with duty.
About our common mother earth
Flow seas of ether ;
Heaven holds her in its starry girth,
The clouds enwreath her.
Forever mystery, love, the soul’s
Boundless ideal,
Like a diviner ether rolls
About the real.
And second youth can still suffuse
The bright creation
With its own dreams and rainbow hues
Of aspiration.
J. T. Trowbridge.