Paul Hamilton Hayne

The Will and The Wing

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To have the will to soar, but not the wings,
Eyes fixed forever on a starry height,
Whence stately shapes of grand imaginings
Flash down the splendors of imperial light;


And yet to lack the charm that makes them ours,
The obedient vassals of that conquering spell,
Whose omnipresent and ethereal powers
Encircle Heaven, nor fear to enter Hell;


This is the doom of Tantalus - the thirst
For beauty's balmy fount to quench the fires


Of the wild passion that our souls have nurst
In hopeless promptings - unfulfilled desires.


Yet would I rather in the outward state
Of Song's immortal temple lay me down,
A beggar basking by that radiant gate,
Than bend beneath the haughtiest empire's crown!


For sometimes, through the bars, my ravished eyes
Have caught brief glimpses of a life divine,
And seen afar, mysterious rapture rise
Beyond the veil that guards the inmost shrine.

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Paul Hamilton Hayne