Diodati, July, 1816.
Could I remount the river of my years
To the first fountain of our smiles and tears,
I would not trace again the stream of hours
Between their outworn banks of wither'd flowers,
But bid it flow as now --- until it glides
Into the number of the nameless tides.
What is this death? --- a quiet of the heart?
The whole of that of which we are a part?
For life is but a vision --- what I see
Of all which lives alone is life to me,
And being so --- the absent are the dead,
Who haunt us from tranquility, and spread
A dreary shroud around us, and invest
With sad remembrances our hours of rest.
The absent are the dead --- for they are cold,
And ne'er can be what once we did behold;
And they are changed, and cheerless, --- or if yet
The unforgotten do not all forget.
Since thus divided --- equal must it be
If the deep barrier be of earth, or sea;
It may be both --- but one day end it must
In the dark union of insensate dust.
The under-earth inhabitants --- are they
But mingled millions decomposed to clay?
The ashes of a thousand ages spread
Wherever man has trodden or shall tread?
Or do they in their silent cities dwell
Each in his incommunicative cell?
Or have they their own language? and a sense
Of breathless being? --- darken'd and intense
As midnight in her solitude? --- Oh Earth !
Where are the past? --- and wherefore had they birth?
The dead are thy inheritors --- and we
But bubbles on thy surface; and the key
Of thy profundity is in the grave,
The ebon portal of thy peopled cave,
Where I would walk in spirit, and behold
Our elements resolved to things untold,
And fathom hidden wonders, and explore
The essence of great bosoms now no more.