John Quincy Adams

Retrospection

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When life's fair dream has passed away
To three score years and ten,
Before we turn again to clay
The lot of mortal men,
'Tis wise a backward eye to cast
On life's revolving scene,
With calmness to review the past
And ask what we have been.
The cradle and the mother's breast
Have vanish'd from the mind,
Of joys the sweetest and the best,
Nor left a trace behind.
Maternal tenderness and care
Were lavished all in vain
Of bliss; whatever was our share
No vestiges remain.
Far distant, like a beacon light
On ocean's boundless waste,
A single spot appears in sight
Yet indistinctly traced.
Some mimic stage's thrilling, cry,
Some agony of fear,
Some painted wonder to the eye,
Some trumpet to the ear.
These are the first events of life
That fasten on the brain,
And through the world's incessant strife
Indelibly remain.
They form the link with ages past
From former worlds a gleam;
With murky vapors overcast,
The net-work of a dream.

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John Quincy Adams