Contented Reader

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L’Homme de L’Ennui

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I was reading Matilda Betham poems today, while my students worked on writing a descriptive essay, and I found this.  I laughed at how well it captured the middle-class angst of some of my black-clothed, poetry-writing teen students.

    Forlornly I wander, forlornly I sigh,
    And droop my head sadly, I cannot tell why:
    When the first breeze of morning blows fresh in my face,
    As the wild-waving walks of our woodlands I trace,
    Reviv'd for the moment I look all around,
    But my eyes soon grow languid, and fix on the ground.

    I have yet no misfortune to rob me of rest,
    No love discomposes the peace of my breast;
    Ambition ne'er enter'd the verge of my thought,
    Nor by honours, by wealth, nor by power am I caught;
    Those phantoms of folly disturb not my ease,
    Yet Time is a tortoise, and Life a disease.

    With the blessings of youth and of health on my side,
    A temper untainted by envy or pride;
    No guilt to corrode, and no foes to molest;
    There are many who tell me my station is blest.
    This I cannot dispute; yet without knowing why--
    I feel that my bosom is big with a sigh.

    Oh! why do I see that all knowledge is vain;
    That Science finds Error still keep in her train;
    That Imposture or Darkness, with Doubt and Surmise,
    Will mislead, will perplex, and then baffle the wise,
    Who often, when labours have shorten'd their span,
    Declare--not to know--is the province of man?

    In life, as in learning, our views are confin'd,
    Our discernment too weak to discover the mind,
    Which, subdued and irresolute, keeps out of sight;
    Or if, for a moment, her presence delight,
    Our air is too gross for the stranger to stay;
    And, back to her prison she hurries away!

    If my own narrow precincts I seek to explore,
    My wishes how vain, my attainments how poor!
    Tenacious of virtue, with caution I move;
    I correct, and I wrestle, but cannot approve;
    Till, bewilder'd and faint, I would yield up the rein,
    But I dare not in peace with my errors remain!

    With zeal all awake in the cause of a friend,
    With warmth unrepress'd by my fear to offend,
    With sympathy active in hope or distress,
    How keen and how anxious I cannot express,
    I shrink, lest an eye should my feelings behold,
    And my heart seems insensible, selfish and cold.

    I strive to be gay, but my efforts are weak,
    And, sick of existence, for pleasure I seek;
    I mix with the empty, the loud, and the vain,
    Partake of their folly, and double my pain.
    In others I meet with depression and strife;
    Oh! where shall I seek for the music of life?
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Written by Contented Reader

October 27, 2011 at 4:56 pm

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