And I have walked with Hampden and with Vane —
Names once so gracious to an English ear —
In days that never may return again.
My voice, though not the loudest, hath been heard
Whenever freedom raised her cry of pain,
And the faint effort of the humble bard
Hath roused up thousands from their lethargy,
To speak in words of thunder. What reward
Was mine, or theirs? It matters not; for I
am but a leaf cast on the whirling tide,
Without a hope or wish, except to die.
But truth, asserted once, must still abide,
Unquenchable, as are those fiery springs
Which day and night gush from the mountain-side,
Perpetual meteors girt with lambent wings,
Which the wild tempest tosses to and fro,
But cannot conquer with the force it brings.
Yet I, who ever felt another’s woe
More keenly than my own untold distress;
I, who have battled with the common foe,
And broke for years the bread of bitterness;
Who never yet abandoned or betrayed
The trust vouchsafed me, nor have ceased to bless,
Am left alone to wither in the shade,
A weak old man, deserted by his kind —
Whom none will comfort in his age, nor aid!
Oh, let me not repine! A quiet mind
Conscious and upright, needs no other stay;
Nor can I grieve for what I leave behind,
In the rich promise of eternal day.
Henceforth to me the world is dead and gone,
Its thorns unfelt, its roses cast away:
And the old pilgrim, weary and alone,
Bowed down with travel, at his Master’s gate
Now sits, his task of life-long labor done,
Thankful for rest, although it comes so late,
After sore journey through the world of sin,
In hope, and prayer, and wistfulness to wait,
Until the door shall ope, and let him in.
William Edmondstoune Aytoun Contemporaries