‘They toil not, neither do they spin.’

One morn before me were three figures seen,
   With bowèd necks, and joinèd hands, side—faced;
And one behind the other stepp’d serene,
   In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;
       They pass’d, like figures on a marble urn,
   When shifted round to see the other side;
They came again; as when the urn once more
       Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;
   And they were strange to me, as may betide
With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.
 
How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not?
   How came ye muffled in so hush a mask?
Was it a silent deep—disguisèd plot
   To steal away, and leave without a task
       My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;
   The blissful cloud of summer—indolence
Benumb’d my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;
       Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower:
   O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense
Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness?
 
A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d
   Each one the face a moment whiles to me;
Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d
   And ached for wings, because I knew the three;
       The first was a fair Maid, and Love her name;
   The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,
And ever watchful with fatiguèd eye;
       The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
   Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
I knew to be my demon Poesy.
 
They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:
   O folly! What is Love? and where is it?
And for that poor Ambition! it springs
   From a man’s little heart’s short fever—fit;
       For Poesy!—no,—she has not a joy,—
   At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,
And evenings steep’d in honey’d indolence;
       O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,
   That I may never know how change the moons,
Or hear the voice of busy common—sense!
 
And once more came they by:—alas! wherefore?
   My sleep had been embroider’d with dim dreams;
My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o’er
   With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:
       The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,
   Tho’ in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;
The open casement press’d a new—leaved vine,
   Let in the budding warmth and throstle’s lay;
       O Shadows! ’twas a time to bid farewell!
Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.
 
So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise
   My head cool—bedded in the flowery grass;
For I would not be dieted with praise,
   A pet—lamb in a sentimental farce!
       Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more
   In masque—like figures on the dreamy urn;
Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,
   And for the day faint visions there is store;
Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle spright,
   Into the clouds, and never more return!

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