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WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY
English writer, poet, critic and editor
(1849 - 1903)

Men may scoff, and men may pray,
  But they pay
    Every pleasure with a pain.
      - Ballade of Truisms [Pleasure]

The nightingale has a lyre of gold,
  The lark's is a clarion call,
    And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute,
      But I love him best of all.
        For his song is all the joy of life,
          And we in the mad spring weather,
            We two have listened till he sang
              Our hearts and lips together.
      - Echoes [Birds]

It matters not how strait the gate,
  How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
      I am the captain of my soul.
      - Echoes (IV, To R.J.H.B.) [Soul]

Now die the dream, or come the wife,
  The past is not in vain,
    For wholly as it was your life
      Can never be again, my dear,
        Can never be again.
      - Echoes (XIX) [Wives]

Who but knows
  How it goes!
    Life's a last year's rose.
      - Echoes (XLV) [Life]

What is Death
  But Life in act? How should the Unteeming Grave
    Be victor over thee,
      Mother, a mother of men?
      - Echoes (XLVI, Matri Dilectissimoe) [Death]

What Nature has writ with her lusty wit
  Is worded so wisely and kindly
    That whoever has dipped in her manuscript
      Must up and follow her blindly.
        Now the summer prime is her blithest rhyme
          In the being and the seeming,
            And they that have heard the overword
              Know life's a dream worth dreaming.
      - Echoes (XXXIII) [Nature]

Or ever the knightly years were gone
  With the old world to the grave,
    I was a king in Babylon
      And you were a Christian slave.
      - Echoes (XXXVII) [Evolution]

What have I done for you,
  England, my England?
    What is there I would not do,
      England, my own?
      - England, My England [England]

A late lark twitters from the quiet skies:
  And from the west,
    Where the sun, his day's work ended,
      Lingers as in content,
        There falls on the old, gray city
          An influence luminous and serene,
            A shining peace.
      - Margaritoe Sorori [Night]

So be my passing.
  My task accomplished and the long day done,
    My wages taken, and in my heart
      Some late lark singing,
        Let me be gathered to the quiet west,
          The sundown splendid and serene,
            Death.
      - Margaritoe Sorori [Death]

The smoke ascends
  In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires
    Shine and are changed. In the valley
      Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun
        Closing his benediction,
          Sinks, and the darkening air
            Thrills with the sense of the triumphing night,--
              Night with train of stars
                And her great gift of sleep.
      - Margaritoe Sorori [Night]

Life is a smoke that curls--
  Curls in a flickering skein,
    That winds and whisks and whirls,
      A figment thin and vain,
        Into the vast inane.
          One end for hut and hall.
      - Of the Nothingness of Things [Life]

Struggle and turmoil, revel and brawl--
  Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
    A smoldering hearth and a silent stage--
      These are a type of the world of Age.
      - Of Youth and Age--Envoy [Age]

Failing yet gracious,
  Slow pacing, soon homing,
    A patriarch that strolls
      Through the tents of his children,
        The sun as he journeys
          His round on the lower
            Ascents of the blue,
              Washes the roofs
                And the hillsides with clarity.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms [Sun]

Here is the ghost
  Of a summer that lived for us,
    Here is a promise
      Of summer to be.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms [Summer]

What is the voice of strange command
  Calling you still, as friend calls friend,
    With love that cannot brook delay,
      To rise and follow the ways that wend
        Over the hills and far away.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms (1) [Mountains]

Open your heart and take us in,
  Love--love and me.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms (V) [Love]

O Death! O Change! O Time!
  Without you, O! the insufferable eyes
    Of these poor Might-Have-Beens,
      These fatuous, ineffectual yesterdays.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms (XIII) [Past]

So many are the deaths we die
  Before we can be dead indeed.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms (XV) [Death]

Into the everlasting lull,
  The immortal, incommunicable dream.
      - Rhymes and Rhythms (XVI) [Death]

So may it be: that so dead Yesterday,
  No sad-eyed ghost but generous and gay,
    May serve you memories like almighty wine,
      When you are old.
      - When You Are Old [Memory]


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