Lapsus Calami (Aug 1891)/To A. H. C.

To A.H.C.  (1891) 

First published in the "Rescued from the Waste Paper Basket" section of the third edition of Lapsus Calami, "To A.H.C." was addressed to his friend Arthur Hugh Clough, Jr.

(In recollection of certain debates on the futility of Metaphysics.)

You taunt me as a shallow man:
You mock my prosy middle age:
Would demonstrate me, if you can,
Devoid of youth's exalted rage
Bound on a dusty pilgrimage.

Because I do not much peruse
The words that Schopenhauer penned;
Locke's, Kant's and Hegel's lofty views
I don't aspire to comprehend;
Because, in short, my worthy friend,

I'm, like yourself, a man of prose:
A man of commonplace belief,
Who doubts, and disbelieves, and knows,
And aims at joy, and flies from grief,
And has a taste for beer and beef.

You do us wrong: for you and I
Are just as good as other men:
A hand to write, a seeing eye,
An ear which catches, now and then,
The sounds that haunt a poet's pen:

I offer (you withhold them) thanks
For these, and other common things:
And not in vain on Cam's green baks
We lived at Trinity and King's,
And loved to try our sprouting wings.

A many-windowed house is life,
And out of every window we,
In intervals of daily strife,
Look forth upon infinity:
And that's the good of you and me.

The joys of metaphysic trance,
The midnight bliss of keen debate,
The insight of a mystic's glance,
Which charm the undergraduate,
Are matched in our maturer state.

The deeds and passions of our prime,
Our studies of acknowledged truth,
Our business—though it's not sublime,—
Are just as excellent in sooth,
As all the fervour lost with youth.

The ruddy warmth of arduous toil,
The spasm of triumphant strife,
A friend to serve, a foe to foil,
A cause with noble purpose rife,
The love of her that gave thee life:

The smile that shines through misty tears,
The soft "delight of low replies,"
The after-glow of vanished fears,
And all the excellent surprise
That trembles in a woman's eyes:

Men, women, children: speech and song:
The artist's touch, the poet's thought:
The pulses of a busy throng,
The rest of spirits over-wrought:
Are these—is all beside them, naught?

Here, everywhere, and every day,
The seeker finds right human stuff:
To laugh, to weep, to work, to play;
Are joy and sorrow not enough?
And cannot these content thee, Clough?

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.