Poems (Botta)/The Wasted Fountains

Poems (1853), facing p. 81.jpg


“And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters; they came to the pits and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty.”—Jeremiah xiv. 3.

When the fitful fever of the soul Is awakened in thee first; And thou goest like Judah’s children forth, To slake thy burning thirst;—

And when dry and wasted, like the springs Sought by that little band, Before thee, in their emptiness, Life’s broken cisterns stand;—

When the ripened fruits that tempted, Turn to ashes on the taste; And thine early visions fade and pass, Like the mirage of the waste;—

When faith darkens, and hopes languish, In the shade of gathering years; And the urn thou bear’st is empty, Or o’erflowing with thy tears,

Because those transient springs have failed thee, And those founts of youth are dried; Wilt thou, among the mouldering stones, In weariness abide?

Wilt thou sit among the ruins, With all words of cheer unspoken, Till the silver chord is loosened; Till the golden bowl is broken?

Up, and onward! towards the east, Green oases thou shalt find; Streams that rise from higher sources, Than the pools thou leav’st behind.

Life has import more inspiring Than the fancies of thy youth; It has hopes as high as heaven; It has labor,—it has truth.

It has wrongs that may be righted,— Noble deeds that may be done;— Its great battles are unfought, Its great triumphs are unwon.

There is rising from its troubled deeps, A low, unceasing moan; There are aching, there are breaking Other hearts besides thine own.

From strong limbs, that should be chainless, There are fetters to unbind; There are words to raise the fallen; There is sight to give the blind.

There are crushed and broken spirits, That electric thoughts may thrill; Lofty dreams to be embodied, By the might of one strong will.

There are God and Truth above thee,— Wilt thou languish in despair? Tread thy griefs beneath thy feet,— Seale the walls of Heaven by prayer.

’Tis the key of the Apostle, That opens Heaven from below; ’Tis the ladder of the patriarch, Whereon angels come and go.