Excerpt from “Orion: Book III, Canto the First” by Richard Henry Horne

The wisdom of mankind creeps slowly on,
Subject to every doubt that can retard,
Or fling it back upon an earlier time;
So timid are man’s footsteps in the dark.
But blindest those who have no inward light.
One mind, perchance, in every age contains
The sum of all before, and much to come;
Much that ‘s far distant still; but that full mind,
Companioned oft by others of like scope,
Belief, and tendency, and anxious will,
A circle small transpierces and illumes;
Expanding, soon its subtle radiance
Falls blunted from the mass of flesh and bone.
The man who for his race might supersede
The work of ages, dies worn out—not used,
And in his; track disciples onward strive,
Some hairs’-breadths only from his starting point:
Yet lives he not in vain; for if his soul
Hath entered others, though imperfectly
The circle widens as the world spins round,—
His soul works on while he sleeps ‘neath the grass.
So, let the firm Philosopher renew
His wasted lamp—the lamp wastes not in vain,
Though he no mirrors for its rays may see,
Nor trace them through the darkness;— let the Hand
Which feels primeval impulses, direct
A forthright plough, and make his furrow broad,
With heart untiring while one field remains;
So, let the herald Poet shed his thoughts,
Like seeds that seem but lost upon the wind.
Work in the night, thou sage, while Mammon’s brain,
Teems with low visions on his couch of down;—
Break, thou, the clods while high-throned Vanity,
Midst glaring lights and trumpets, holds its courts;—
Sing, thou, thy song amidst the stoning crowd,
Then stand apart, obscure to man, with God.
The poet of the future knows his place,
Though in the present shady be his seat,
And all his laurels deepening but the shade.

From: Horne, R.H., Orion: An Epic Poem in Three Books, 1843, J. Miller: London, pp. 90-91.

Date: 1843

By: Richard Henry Horne (1802-1884)

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