The Forlorn Hope (Hall)/Poems/A Character

For works with similar titles, see A Character.

A CHARACTER.

He was a very old man, and had seen
His children's children flourish as they grew;
Yet strong in mind as he had ever been—
Unworn by fourscore summers—still he drew
The eyes of all men on him; for his fame
Had gone forth to the nations; and his name
Was, like himself, time-honour'd—and his look
Was as the index to some well-penn'd book.

It was his age's winter; yet he bore
His years with dignity, for, in his spring,
His wild shoots were well pruned—so that he wore
His summer garment bravely; age might bring
His full boughs nearer earth, but could not kill
The root that sent forth fruit and blossoms still;
The tempest o'er it many a time had pass'd,
Yet left it firm and noble to the last.

He had a winning softness when he would;
Yet sometimes he was like the shower that sheds
Apparent wrath while it produces good:
And bends young buds to bid them raise their heads,
That with more profit they may hail the sun;
And some were even by his harshness won,
Because they knew 'twas kindly meant, and kept
But as a spell to waken those who slept.

Greatly he trod the earth, and men would bow,
The high and lowly, with respect to him;
Though many a furrow deeply marked his brow,
Though his once penetrating eye was dim,
And though the weight of age had bent the form
Which for twice forty years had stood the storm
That, bearing many a goodly one to earth,
Had left him—as if conscious of his worth.

He was the friend of all who knew him—all—
A kindly fountain, with perpetual flow;
And well he knew, and much he loved, to call
The feelings forth, that give a brighter glow
To things of earth; he felt the poet's fire:
Albeit his fingers never touch'd the lyre;
His was true inspiration, for his mind
Had ranged from God to nature, unconfined.

But, must we say that he no longer lives?
And, as the painter when his sketch he views—
Outlined from Nature—pauses, ere he gives
The last touch of his pencil, lest he lose
The character of what he copies;—here
We feel how bare our picture must appear,
Wanting the finish that to all should tell
How, having lived in honour, he died well.