Selected Writings, Vol. 3, William Sharp

EUGENE LEE-HAMILTON

(1903)

Some eight years ago a little book appeared entitled Sonnets of the Wingless Hours. This book was received not only with the respect due to a poet whose earlier writings had won him a distinguished minor place, but with a cordial recognition that by it English poetry had been enriched. Here, it was realised, was a man who had something to say that was worth saying and was said in a new way. True, some of Eugene Lee-Hamilton's critics had recognised this from the first, since the publication of Gods, Saints, and Men, in 1880; and others had come to see in succeeding volumes the justification of the praise and confidence of the few who had welcomed a new writer of distinction. It was not, however, till the appearance of Sonnets of the Wingless Hours that anything like justice was done to the rare merits of the author. Perhaps in some degree this was due to aroused sympathy: sympathy with what rumour hinted of a life of tragical suffering bravely borne, enhanced by the corroborative evidence of the writings themselves. Casual critics had complained of the emphasised note of personal loss, personal despair, without recognising that the author was not adopting a pose, but was sincerely giving expression to a bitter truth. Nor, again, had these commentators known the work in its proper proportions : they had seen certain features in exaggerated relief, they discerned nothing of the artistic equipoise which rendered the poet's verse variegated in charm as well as in sombre power, in delicate beauty as well as in the weird and fantastic, the despairing and the tragical. A critic complained once, in an essay on pessimism in modern poetry, that all the writers of Lee-Hamilton's way of thought were hopeless pessimists, in part at least, because they could never see life in its happy minor moods, or recognise that delicacy of thought and lightness of touch could, in art, go as far, or further, than "a sad strenuousness." The proposition thus put is not true or relevant, but merely vague and inconsequently assertive. To see life in its happy minor moods is a spiritual faculty that may quite well co-exist with an intellectual inability to accept every vicissitude of human destiny as plain evidence of divine care and love : and a poet can blithely rejoice in the sweet natural world, or happily live and move in the world of the imagination, even if the primary dogmas of the Church are a dead letter to him. As to any inevitable quality in intellectual pessimism tending to dissociation from delicacy of thought and lightness of touch, there is certainly no more than the like inevitable quality in optimism tending to association with the terrible and painful : these directions are matters of temperament, of individual outlook, not of theory as to life's limitations and destinies. Darley was a pessimist and unhappy in his life and circumstances, but no English poet has surpassed him in the delicacy of his vision of the imaginative world of fairyland and the greenwood life, or equalled him in lightness of touch. Thomas Hardy is a pessimist, in the current use of the word at least ; but no contemporary has given us a more charming and humorous and convincingly vivid portrayal of human life than the author of Under the Greenwood Tree. And it might well be asked, who among living poets has given us so delightful and delicately sure a revelation of the "fairy" world, from the characteristic English standpoint at any rate, as Lee-Hamilton has done in poems such as, for example, the two sonnets of The Death of Puck in Sonnets of the Wingless Hours?

I

I fear that Puck is dead---it is so long
   Since men last saw him---dead with all the rest
   Of that sweet elfin crew that made their nest
In hollow nuts, where hazels sing their song;
Dead andfoy ever, like the antique throng
   The elves replaced ; the Dryad that you guessed
   Behind the leaves ; the Naiad weed-bedressed;
The leaf-eared Faun that loved to lead you wrong.

Tell me, thou hopping Robin, hast the met
   A little man, no bigger than thyself,
Whom they call Puck, where woodland bells are wet ?

Tell me, thou Wood-Mouse, hast thou seen an elf
   Whom they call Puck, and is he seated yet,
Capped with a snail-shell, on his mushroom shelf?

II

The Robin gave three hops, and chirped, and said
    "Yes, I knew Puck, and loved him ; though I trow
   He mimicked oft my whistle chuckling low
Yes, I knew cousin Puck, but he is dead.
We found him lying on his mushroom bed---
   The wren and I---half covered up with snow,
   As we were hopping where the berries grow.
We think he died of cold. Aye, Puck is fled."

And then the Wood-Mouse, said: "We made the mole
   Dig him a little grave beneath the moss,
And four big Dormice placed him in a hole;

The Squirrel made with sticks a little cross
   Puck was a Christian elf, and had a soul;
And all we velvet-jackets mourn his loss."

This is the same poet who elsewhere (in The New Medusa) reveals his personal tragedy in lines such as:

What work I do, I do with numbed, chained hand,
With scanty light, and seeing ill the whole,
And each small part, once traced, must changeless stand
         Beyond control---

or newly conveys the more impersonal world-sorrow at the loss of ancient faith, as in the fine sonnet Idle Charon which opens the volume entitled Apollo and Marsyas:

The shores of Styx are lone for evermore,
And not one shadowy form upon the steep
Looms through the dust, far as the eye can sweep,
To call the ferry over as of yore ;
But tintless rushes all about the shore
Have hemmed the old boat in, where, locked in sleep,
Hoar-bearded Charon lies ; while Pale weeds creep
With tightening grasp all round the unused oar.
For in the world of life strange rumours run
That now the Soul departs not with the breath,
But that the Body and the Soul are one ;
And in the loved one's mouth now, after death,
The widow puts no obol, nor the son,
To pay the Jerry in the world beneath.

Eugene Lee-Hamilton was born in London, in January 1845, and was still in infancy when his father died. His mother was a woman of marked individuality and of exceptional mental powers, so that it was natural that she should prefer to educate her child herself. This was the more fortunate for her son in so far that he was not tied down to the routine of schooling in one place, because Mrs. Lee-Hamilton enjoyed and believed in the value of varied experience of  "places, men, and things" abroad. Thus the early years of Eugene Lee-Hamilton were mainly spent in France and Germany. When nineteen he went to Oriel College, Oxford, and in the same year (1864) took the Taylorian Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literature: an excellent proof that he had not suffered by maternal education in lieu of the usual school routine. By many passages and allusions in the poet's early Poems and Transcripts and other volumes, it is clear that this Oxford period was the happiest in his life. In addition to exceptional mental powers, he had good health and enjoyed all out-door life, and the ambition to excel was the salt to the pleasant savour of youth. When he left Oxford, it was to enter (in 1869) the Diplomatic Service. Eugene began mature life along two lines of development: the line of diplomacy, and the line of study and a severe intellectual training. Perhaps it was during the early period of this dual strain that the first symptoms of nature's warning that he was incurring an excess of nervous expenditure revealed themselves : if so, they were too slight to attract any particular notice. After six months' hard work at the Foreign Office, he was attached to the British Embassy at Paris, one of the primary reasons for his appointment being his proficiency as a French linguist, and his interest in and considerable knowledge of French life. Life at the Embassy, always interesting, became an exciting experience at the outbreak of the Franco-German War. The work, however, now involved a greatly enhanced strain, and as the young student-diplomatist was not so strong as he looked, he began slowly to suffer in minor but harassing ways. In all, he served three years under our Ambassador, Lord Lyons, and accompanied the Embassy to Tours, Bordeaux, and Versailles in its respective domiciliary changes during the war. Possibly, if the young diplomatist could have had a long rest after his arduous labours during the Franco-German War, he might have avoided a break-down which was becoming almost inevitable, though its imminence or seriousness was unrecognised by himself or others. It was with relief, however, that in 1873 he found himself appointed to our Legation at Lisbon, under Sir Charles Murray.
At first the change to a warmer climate, and to a new and picturesque environment, effected some good to failing health. Then, rapidly, the first dread symptoms of a cerebro-spinal disease revealed themselves. The young diplomatist's career was at an end. Not long after his resignation and departure from Lisbon, he himself realised that all his hopes and ambitions were doomed to frustration. By this time, in a semi-paralysed condition, he was now an acknowledged sufferer from the same dread and agonising disease which had kept Heine on his mattress-grave for so many weary years till death released the poet from his martyrdom. In a brief while from the first definite collapse (in 1874), all hope was practically abandoned. It seemed but a question of time, of physical endurance, and moral courage.
All the published poetic work of Eugene Lee-Hamilton (with the slight exception of his share in Forest Notes) was accomplished within the twenty years, from 1874 to 1894, when practically paralysed, always in pain, and for years in a continuous martyrdom of acute suffering and nervous agony, he endured with a latent vitality and an undaunted courage what almost seemed beyond human courage or vitality to meet.
It is the knowledge of this dreadful suffering and all of bitter regret, disillusion, and relinquishment involved, which gives his poetry in general, and the Sonnets of the Wingless Hours in particular, so poignant an accent. How, in the circumstances, so much fine work was achieved may well astonish us : the accomplishment of the finer portion might seem incredible if the method and manner of composition were fully realised. Let it suffice to say that for a long period Lee-Hamilton's suffering was too acute to enable him to be read to; conversations, messages, letters, had to be condensed into a few essential words; even the poetry he so loved had to be read to him at long intervals, and often had to be limited to a couple of lines at a time. In dictation of his own poetry he was almost as restricted. At one time he could not have dictated the whole of a sonnet straightway ; for a considerable period a line or two at a time had to suffice. Twenty years of the maturity of a man's life, from thirty to fifty ; think of it ! . . . of all that is involved, of all that it means and this, too, without hope of recovery, and with likelihood of enhanced suffering. Yet in these twenty years the poet never despaired in the sense of turning his face to the wall and refusing further terms with life. Volume after volume came from him, and not only original verse, but a careful and scholarly, metrical translation of Dante, in itself a heavy labour even for the time and energy of an enthusiast unencumbered in health and circumstance. Truly, Heine's brother of the mattress-grave endured and lived by poetry alone. It was this inward life, this indwelling spirit, this star in the mind which kept despair at bay, and gave a few rare moments of solace and beauty to the weary round of the wingless hours. He has himself said better than any other can say what Poetry meant to him :

I think the Fairies to my christening came;
   But they were wicked sprites and envious elves
   Who brought me gall, as bitter as themselves,
In tiny tankards wrought with fairy flame.
They wished me love of books---each little dame---
   With power to read no book upon my shelves ;
   Fair limbs-for Palsy; Dead-Sea fruits by twelves;
And every bitter blessing you can name.

But one good Elf there was ; and she let fall
   A single drop of Poesy's wine of gold
In every little tankard full of gall.

So year by year, as woes and pains grow old,
   The little golden drop is in them all;
But bitterer is the cup than can be told.

We may fairly contrast this poetry, this attitude, with that of other poets of  "gloom and sorrow and sadness," with whom Eugene Lee-Hamilton has with only partial justice been classed. One of the greatest poets of Italy won the sympathy of the reading world by the sincerity and uniformity of his lamentations upon the evil of life : and though not even the lyrical genius and powerful intellect of Leopardi can now recall his retreated fame across the borders of youth and hope, there was a time when his poetry of lamentation was held to be justified by the weariness, illhealth, and shattered energies which from early manhood accompanied his disappointed and brief life. But none, surely, could say that the English poet had not endured a bitterer destiny, yet with a far greater dignity in reticence of personal lament. No contemporary writer has suffered more; but where do we find the embittered hatred and scorn of life so characteristic of many of those who have known the hard way ? He bears no ill-will to those of happier fortunes he curses no gods : and if he is sad in mind and sick at heart, if the tragical and poignant and pathetic appeal to him as themes oftener than a perfect sanity would adjudge right, that, surely, is but natural. In the Italy where he has spent most of his life, and knows so well despite restricted opportunities, there are poets who have outdone the prophets in anathema and bewailing, without a tenth part of the justification of Eugene Lee-Hamilton. Read not only the great Carducci in his sombre moments, but Mario Rapisardi, the representative poet of the south ; or Arturo Graf, the typical pessimist of that northern Italy which has become so Germanised; or Ada Negri, the author of Fatalita and Tempeste, books which have had a wide sale and a wider and deeper influence, and wherein the cry of revolt and the snarl against life become hysterical through sheer intensity. Then turn to even so sad a book as Sonnets of the Wingless Hours. What serenity in suffering, what dignity in pain, what control over bitterness! How insincere much of Baudelaire appears in this contrast, how crude the savage banalities of Maldoror; how rhetorical even the sombre verse of the author of The City of Dreadful Night. In one respect at least, Eugene Lee-Hamilton and the late Philip Bourke Marston should be remembered together : for these two poets of lifelong suffering and loss have ever, to use an oldfashioned phrase, been gentlemen in their sorrow.
To return to the poet's career subsequent to his collapse after his retirement from the diplomatic service. From Lisbon he went to Florence, to the home of his mother, who had remarried some ten years after her first husband's death. Here, with Mrs. Paget, as she now was, and with his half-sister Violet Paget, later to become so well known as Vernon Lee, he spent the ensuing twenty years in the circumstances indicated, and with only a few brief summer changes (then, as in his ordinary "airings" in Florence, having to be conveyed on a wheeled bed) to Siena, or the Bagni di Lucca.
During the first three years of his painful and disabling malady, Lee-Hamilton revised some of his youthful productions in verse, and, having selected and amplified, published his first volume, Poems and Transcripts. This was in 1878, and from that date the author continuously devoted himself to the art he has loved and so well served. His early book is interesting as a prelude : all the author's qualities are foreshadowed, if sometimes dimly. It reveals an indifferent accomplishment in technique, but the poet-touch is often evident and convincirig. Even if the volume had not appeared at a time when the cult of deft metrical artifice was absorbing the attention of poets and critics, it is certain that Poems and Transcripts could have had "no great measure of success. Yet one may turn to the book with pleasure, though the author has travelled a long way in the twenty-five years which have passed since its publication.
Two years later (1880) the poet's second volume appeared. Gods, Saints, and Man showed an unmistakable advance. It was evident that a new craftsman in dramatic verse, in the dramatic ballad and lyrical narrative, had entered the lists. The touch was still unequal, the art often interspaced with disillusioning phrase, or dragged by the prosaic clay of the overworn or colourless word, the jejune epithet. But it was a poet and not merely a verse-writer who challenged criticism. And this, in itself a distinction, was still more manifest in The New Medusa and Apollo and Marsyas, published respectively in 1882 and 1884. If in the later of these two volumes is no ballad to surpass in dramatic intensity The Raft in the earlier, the narrative and ballad poems show a more scrupulous art and compelling power. Their author loves a terrible subject as a gourmet loves a delicacy: it is the rich food and strong wine most beloved of his imagination. In Sister Mary of the Plague, in this 1884 volume, he has a theme which has the demerit of fundamental unreality, but the merit of intensely dramatic possibility. This theme is one which might easily be treated repulsively, but which Lee-Hamilton has rendered in beauty, and as to whose imaginative reality he convinces us. But if in this tale of a vampire-woman to whom the enormity of her hidden life and frightful destiny are accidentally revealed, a revelation met not only with despair but with spiritual abhorrence, the poet has succeeded where most would fail, he has not always the like good fortune. Personally I find the flaws in workmanship more obvious in these dramatic narratives and ballads than in his sonnets, where the discipline of the form has for this poet ever exercised a salutary influence. Perhaps his finest achievement in this kind is the vivid dramatic narrative, Abraham Carew, a Puritan fanatic who has wilfully murdered his only and dearly loved daughter under the terrible obsession of the idea that the sacrifice is required of him by the Almighty. It is refreshing to turn from sombre and tragical studies such as Sistey Mary of'the Plague, Abraham Carew, The Wonder of the World, Ipsissimus, and others, to a romantic ballad so strong and spirited as Hunting the King (based on the historic episode of Drouet's night-ride to Varennes). Yet even in the volume containing these noteworthy ballads and dramatic poems, the most memorable part is not that which comprises them, but that where a score of sonnets reveal a surer inspiration and a finer technique. As in The New Medusa one after a time recalls only vaguely The Raft and other strenuous compositions, one remembers sonnet after sonnet. One of these, Sea-Shell Murmurs, is already accepted as one of the finest contemporary achievements in its kind and none the less because that the central image is familiar: the more, indeed, from the triumph of imparting to an outworn poetic symbol a new life and a new beauty.
A genuine if limited success came to Lee-Hamilton with the publication in 1888 of his Imaginary Sonnets, despite its equivocal title. Here, in truth, it was realised, was a poet who had won the right to be considered seriously. On the other hand, his next volume, the poetic drarna called The Fountain of Youth, though containing some of the poet's finest passages, and with the advantage of one of those deepbased themes which ignite the imagination of all of us, was almost ignored by the reading public. It is difficult to understand why this fine book failed to win wider appreciation than it did. The fault cannot lie wholly with the might-be readers, or with the critics---several of whom spoke of it highly. Probably the reason in part lies in that monotony in handling which characterises many of the author's narrative poems ; and in the like tendency to wed fine and commonplace lines and passages in an incompatible union. Possibly the real reason is that "the reader" does not wish to be led to any Fountain of Youth, even if by Ponce da Leon himself (the author's, "hero"), unless it be to a revelation of hope. The fountains of disillusion are dreaded by most of us.
Three years later, in 1894, Eugene Lee-Hamilton's finest book, with its beautiful and appropriate title Sonnets of the Wingless Hours, convinced even those who had hitherto shown indifference, that here was a true and fine poet with an utterance all his own, an inspiration that none could gainsay, and a gift of beauty worthy indeed of welcome. The collection was not, it is true, of wholly new poetry : many of the sonnets had already appeared in earlier volumes. But here, it was realised, was brought together the most unalloyed ore that the poet had to offer : old and new, the collection was at once unique, beautiful, and convincing.
From 1874 to 1894---in these twenty years the poet, had never stirred from his wheeled bed. In these twenty years he had endured suffering so continuous and hopeless as to be all but unendurable---and in pain and difficulty, often only line by line, sometimes literally only by a word or two at a time, had dictated all these volumes. For many weeks in each year, at one time for many sequent months, he could see even his intimate friends only at rare intervals and for the briefest periods. It would not be seemly to enlarge upon this long martyrdom : it is enough to indicate out of what steadfastness of will and heroism of endurance these books came to be.
Then at last the miraculous happened. Early in the twenty-first year of this prolonged half-life, when he had almost reached the age of fifty, the sufferer began to realise that his disease was on the wane. At first this seemed impossible : then it was feared as a prelude to a worse collapse finally hope became almost a certainty. Before the summer had passed the invalid arose, restored to new life. True, it took him months to learn to walk again, and even when he could dispense with an attendant and was once more able to go out into the light of day and rejoice in freedom of movement and the rapture of recovered energies, many more months elapsed before he could trust himself to the normal activities of the life he had seen pass from him twenty years back.
Thereafter recovery to health became complete, though of course without the elasticity and vigour of men who had reached the same age without sufferings and in fortunate circumstances. Eugene Lee-Hamilton travelled much. In 1897 he visited America, and returned " a new man." In Rome (for Italy was his adopted country, and he could not live away from it) he met the lady whom in 1898 he married---the Scottish novelist, Annie E. Holdsworth, author of Joanna Traill, Spinster; The Years that the Locust hath Eaten; &c., &c. In 1899 many friends of both delighted in a charming little volume of poetry, entitled Forest Notes, wherein husband and wife had collaborated, each giving of their best and freshest, and content to merge their forest notes into one woodland song.
No more of biography would be fitting here than to add that two years ago Mr. and Mrs. Lee-Hamilton settled in a charming old villa at San Gervasio outside Florence, on the hill-road to Fiesole : and that with renewed life the poet has again given himself to the Muse he served so well in the years of suffering and lethargy---the lethargy that, as he says in one of the lyrics in The Fountain of Youth, "deadened unthinkable pain."
In order to understand Eugene Lee-Hamilton's work, and properly to estimate it, one must know the conditions which shaped and the circumstances which coloured its growth. So far as practicable this has been indicated in the present note. For a fuller understanding of the mind and spirit of the poet one must look to the poems themselves, and particularly to the sonnets, naturally so much more a personal expression than the dramatic ballads and narrative poems, or than the "imaginary sonnets" ---i.e., sonnets imagined to be addressed from some historic individual to another, or to living or inanimate objects, or to an abstraction, or from some creation of the poetic imagination' to another, as Carmagnola to the Republic of Venice and Chastelard to Mary Stuart, as Cardinal Wolsey to his Hound and Lady Jane Grey to the Flowers and Birds, as Michael Angelo to his Statue of Day and Alexandey Selkiyk to his Shadow, as Balboa to the Pacific and Henry I. to the Sea, as Venus to Tannhauser and Faustus to Helen of Troy. Above all, the reader will find what Maeterlinck calls both the outward fatality and the inward destiny, in many of the sonnets contained in The Wingless Hours. So simple and vivid is this poetic autobiography that few readers could fail to grasp the essential features of the author's life, and of the brave, unselfish, and truly poetic spirit which has uplifted it.
And this brings me to a point that has from the first been in my mind. No work of art can in the long run be estimated in connection with the maker's circumstances or suffering. Work in any of the arts is excellent, good, mediocre, poor, or bad we may know the conditional reasons : we may be biassed in sympathy: but we must judge only by the achievement. There can be no greater literary fallacy than to believe that Leopardi's poetry owes what is enduring in it to the pathos of his brief and sorrowful life ; that Heine's lyrics are unforgettable because of his mattress-grave ; that the odes of Keats are more to be treasured by us because he died young and was derided by an influential critic ; that the poems of Shelley are sweeter because he was of the stricken hearts, and was drowned in early manhood; or that the songs of Burns, or the lyrics of Poe, are supreme in kind because of the tragical circumstances in the lives of both poets. The essential part of the poetry of Leopardi, Heine, Keats, Shelley, Burns, Poe, is wholly independent of what has been called the pathetic fallacy. Each of these great artists would inevitably refuse to take any other standpoint, Imagine Keats admiring the verse of a writer because he was blind or was a victim to consumption, or Heine enduring lyrics on the ground that the author was paralysed or had died untimely through a broken heart !
It is not, therefore, on account of what the author has suffered in body and endured in spirit that I would say, "Read: for here is verse wonderful as having been written in circumstances of almost intolerable hardship : verse moving and beautiful because the solace of a fine mind in a prolonged martyrdom of pain and hopelessness." That would be to do an injustice to the author's fine achievement. I would say first and foremost, "Read: for here is true poetry." The rest is incidental. It is right that we should be biassed by sympathy, and inevitable that the atmosphere wherein we approach should be coloured by that sympathy and an admiring pity ; but when we come to the consideration of any work of the imagination, we have to judge of it solely by its conforrnity with or inability to fulfil these laws. Sorrow and suffering have given their colour to these "little children of pain." We feel their pain the more acutely because we know they are neither imagined through dramatic sympathy nor clad in rhetoric. Each is a personal utterance. But each is more than a statement, however pathetic in fact and moving in sentiment : each is a poem, by virtue of that life which the poet can give only when his emotion becomes rhythmical, and when his art controls that rhythm and compels it to an ordered excellence. Were it not so, these sonnets would merely be exclamatory. They might win our sympathy, they could not win our minds : they might persuade us to pity, they could not charm us with beauty. Look, for example, at the first sonnet one may perchance see : Lost Years. A little less of discipline, and the octave would resolve itself into prose : already the ear revolts against the metallic iterance of "went"; but, suddenly, the poetry of the idea and the poetry of the idea's expression becomes one:

And now my manhood goes where goes the song
Of captive birds, the cry of crippled things :
It goes where goes the day that unused dies.

In some of those chosen sonnets the infelicitous, because not the convincing or unconsciously satisfying word, leads perilously near disillusion. Others have an all but flawless beauty ; and we hardly realise whether we are the more moved by the beauty of the poet's thought, and the sadness whence the thought arises a lovely phantom, or by the hushed air and ordered loveliness of the sonnet itselfas, for example, that entitled Twilight:

A sudden pang contracts the heart of Day,
    As fades the glory of the sunken sun.
   The bats replace the swallows one by one
The cries of playing children die away.

Like one in pain, a bell begins to sway
   A few white oxen, from their labour done,
   Pass ghostly through the dusk : the crone that spun
Outside her door, turns in ; and all grows grey.

And still I lie, as I all day have lain,
    Here in this garden, thinking of the time
Before the years of helplessness and pain,

Of playing with the fringes of a rhyme,
   Until the yellow moon, amid her train
Of throbbing stars, appears o'er yonder lime,

It is this pictorial and imaginative vision which animates all Eugene Lee-Hamilton's best work. Take an historical episode such as that selected by him for one of his "Imaginary Sonnets" ---the drowning of the prince in The White Ship. The theme is one hackneyed by many a balladist and poet : but see how new it is become by virtue of this poet's personal vision in union with dramatic insight:

                                . . .Let one wide wave
   Now sweep this land, and make a single grave
For King and people. Let the wild gull skim
Where now is England: and the sea-fish swim
   In every drowned cathedral's vaulted nave,
   As in a green and pillay'd ocean cave.

*      *       *     *     *

And if the shuddering pilot ventures there.
   And sees their Pinnacles, like rocks to shun,
Above the waves, and green with tidal hair---
Then let him whisper. . . .

Let this brief appreciation end with a sonnet given now not only because of its beauty, but as characteristic of the lofty moral standpoint of all the personal writings of Eugene Lee-Hamilton:

WINE OF OMAR KHAYYAM

He rode the flame-winged dragon-steed of Thought
   Through Space and Darkness, seeking Heaven and Hell ;
   And searched the farthest stars where souls might dwell
To find God's justice : and in vain he sought.

Then, looking on the dusk-eyed girl who brought
   His dream-filled wine beside his garden-well,
   He said: "Her kiss, the wine-jug's drowsy spell,
Bulbul, the roses; death; . . . all else is naught:

So drink till that."---What drink, because the abyss
   Of nothing waits ? because there is for man
But one swift hour of consciousness and light ?

No.---Just because we have no life but this,
   Turn it to use ; be noble while you can ;
Search, help, create then pass into the night.

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