Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

The Higher Courage 1


Arthur Hugh Clough

COME back again, my olden heart!—
    Ah, fickle spirit and untrue,
I bade the only guide depart
    Whose faithfulness I surely knew:
I said, my heart is all too soft;
He who would climb and soar aloft
Must needs keep ever at his side
The tonic of a wholesome pride.

Come back again, my olden heart!—
    Alas, I called not then for thee;
I called for Courage, and apart
    From Pride if Courage could not be,
Then welcome, Pride! and I shall find
In thee a power to lift the mind
This low and grovelling joy above—
’Tis but the proud can truly love.

Come back again, my olden heart!—
    With incrustations of the years
Uncased as yet,—as then thou wert,
    Full-filled with shame and coward fears
Wherewith amidst a jostling throng
Of deeds, that each and all were wrong,
The doubting soul, from day to day,
Uneasy paralytic lay.

Come back again, my olden heart!
    I said, Perceptions contradict,
Convictions come, anon depart,
    And but themselves as false convict.
Assumptions, hasty, crude and vain,
Full oft to use will Science deign;
The corks the novice plies to-day
The swimmer soon shall cast away.

Come back again, my olden heart!
    I said, Behold, I perish quite,
Unless to give me strength to start,
    I make myself my rule of right
It must be, if I act at all,
To save my shame I have at call
The plea of all men understood,—
Because I willed it, it is good.

Come back again, my olden heart!
    I know not if in very deed
This means alone could aid impart
    To serve my sickly spirit’s need;
But clear alike of wild self-will,
And fear that faltered, paltered still,
Remorseful thoughts of after days
A way espy betwixt the ways.

Come back again, old heart! Ah me!
    Methinks in those thy coward fears
There might, perchance, a courage be,
    That fails in these the manlier years;
Courage to let the courage sink,
Itself a coward base to think,
Rather than not for heavenly light
Wait on to show the truly right.

1. This and the following Early Poems are reprinted from the volume called Ambarvalia.    [back]

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