Declining Days

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of the Rev. H. F. Lyte, M.A., ed. John Appleyard (London: Elliot Stock, 1907): 103-05. PR 4897 L6 A17 1907 Emmanuel College Library
1Why do I sigh to find
2    Life's evening shadows gathering round my way?
3The keen eye dimming, and the buoyant mind
4    Unhinging day by day?
5Is it the natural dread
6    Of that stern lot, which all who live must see?
7The worm, the clay, the dark and narrow bed, --
8    Have these such awe for me?
9Can I not summon pride
10    To fold, my decent mantle round my breast;
11And lay me down at Nature's eventide,
12    Calm to my dreamless rest?
13As nears my soul the verge
14    Of this dim continent of woe and crime,
15Shrinks she to hear Eternity's long surge
16    Break o'er the shores of time?
17Asks she, how shall she fare
18    When conscience stands before the judge's throne,
19And gives her record in, and all shall there
20    Know, as they all are known?
21A solemn scene and time --
22    And well may Nature quail to feel them near --
23But grace in feeble breasts can work sublime,
24    And faith overmaster fear!
25Hark I from that throne comes down
26    A voice which strength to sinking souls can give,
27That voice all judgment's thunders cannot drown;
28    'Believe,' it cries, 'and live.'
29Weak-sinful, as I am,
30    That still small voice forbids me to despond
31Faith clings for refuge to thebleeding Lamb,
32    Nor dreads the gloom beyond. --
33'Tis not, then, earth's delights
34    From which my spirit feels so loath to part;
35Nor the dim future's solemn sounds or sights,
36    That press so on my heart.
37No I 'tis the thought that I --
38    My lamp so low, my sun so nearly set,
39Have lived so useless, so unmissed should lie
40    'Tis this, I now regret. --
41I would not be the wave,
42    That swells and ripples up to yonder shore
43That drives impulsive on, the wild wind's slave,
44    And breaks, and is no more! --
45I would not be the breeze,
46    That murmers by me in its viewless play,
47Bends the light grass, and flutters in the trees,
48    And sighs and flits away! --
49No I not like wave or wind
50    Be my career across the earthly scene
51To come and go, and leave no trace behind,
52    To say that I have been.
53I want not vulgar fame --
54    I seek not to survive in brass or stone
55Hearts may not kindle when they hear my name,
56    Nor tears my value own. --
57But might I leave behind
58    Some blessing for my fellows, some fair trust
59To guide, to cheer, to elevate my kind
60    When I am in the dust.
61Within my narrow bed,
62    Might I not wholly mute or useless be;
63But hope that they, who trampled o'er my head,
64    Drew still some good from me!
65Might my poor lyre but give
66    Some simple strain, some spirit-moving lay;
67Some sparklet of the soul, that still might live
68    When I have passed to clay! --
69Might verse of mine inspire
70    One virtuous aim, one high resolve impart;
71Light in one drooping soul a hallowed fire,
72    Or bind one broken heart. --
73Death would be sweeter then,
74    More calm my slumber 'neath the silent sod;
75Might I thus live to bless my fellow-men,
76    Or glorify my God.
77Why do we ever lose,
78    As judgment ripens, our diviner powers
79Why do we only learn our gifts to use,
80    When they no more are ours?
81O Thou whose touch can lend
82    Life to the dead, Thy quick'ning grace supply,
83And grant me, swanlike, my last breath to spend
84    In song that may not die!
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2001
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