Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/"Slave or free?"


Free, not a slave.” Therein a question lies.
Upon the verge of dim futurity
I stand, and try to pierce the gathering clouds
Of my perplexity.

I send a backward glance upon the past
And fairy dreams and woe-worn vigils rise,
And gleams of golden sunshine after storms,
Half blind mine eyes.

I see dark rocks ’gainst which the stream of time
Hath dashed me, or ’gainst which I steered my course.
Who knows if Destiny or Will hath been
The motive force?

Am I a puppet worked by leading strings,
And turned this way or that as Fate decrees,
Borne onward by a flood whose waters roll
To unknown seas?

Must I drift on? and are my struggles vain?
The hand I lift all powerless to control?
To fight and fail still be my maddening lot,
And lose my soul?

Why have a soul, if that its fate is fixed?
If that its noble impulses but serve
To carry on some fore-determined plan
Without the power to swerve?

Am I fore-doomed to tread a destined path?
Say, is the god-like found in such estate?
May I not rather and more nobly trust
My life to regulate?

If that the end is known, can I be free?
Does not that knowledge o’er me cast a chain?
Free and not free—an unsolved problem still
Must life remain.

Tell me, my soul, thou spark of the Divine
Breathed into me, am I a fettered slave?
Can I not shape the path that lies between
Me and the grave?

O curious life! O complicated web!
Thy tangled meshes subtly compass me.
Strange doubts perplex; yet still my soul asserts
The Will is free!