‘I Have Lived With Shades’

I

I have lived with shades so long,
And talked to them so oft,
Since forth from cot and croft
I went mankind among,
   That sometimes they
   In their dim style
   Will pause awhile
   To hear my say;

II

And take me by the hand,
And lead me through their rooms
In the To-be, where Dooms
Half-wove and shapeless stand:
   And show from there
   The dwindled dust
   And rot and rust
   Of things that were.

III

‘Now turn,’ spake they to me
One day: ‘Look whence we came,
And signify his name
Who gazes thence at thee.’ —
  — ‘Nor name nor race
   Know I, or can,’
   I said, ‘Of man
   So commonplace.

IV

‘He moves me not at all;
I note no ray or jot
Of rareness in his lot,
Or star exceptional.
   Into the dim
   Dead throngs around
   He’ll sink, nor sound
   Be left of him.’

V

‘Yet,’ said they, ‘his frail speech,
Hath accents pitched like thine —
Thy mould and his define
A likeness each to each —
   But go! Deep pain
   Alas, would be
   His name to thee,
   And told in vain! ‘

‘O memory, where is now my youth,
Who used to say that life was truth? ‘

‘I saw him in a crumbled cot
   Beneath a tottering tree;
That he as phantom lingers there
   Is only known to me.’

‘O Memory, where is now my joy,
Who lived with me in sweet employ? ‘

‘I saw him in gaunt gardens lone,
   Where laughter used to be;
That he as phantom wanders there
   Is known to none but me.’

‘O Memory, where is now my hope,
Who charged with deeds my skill and scope? ‘

‘I saw her in a tomb of tomes,
   Where dreams are wont to be;
That she as spectre haunteth there
   Is only known to me.’

‘O Memory, where is now my faith,
One time a champion, now a wraith? ‘

‘I saw her in a ravaged aisle,
   Bowed down on bended knee;
That her poor ghost outflickers there
   Is known to none but me.’

‘O Memory, where is now my love,
That rayed me as a god above? ‘

‘I saw him by an ageing shape
   Where beauty used to be;
That his fond phantom lingers there
   Is only known to me.’

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