"To Mrs. L." by Jane Taylor (1783-1824)
WHY is it that my friend and I,
Look forth on life so variously?
She, on the present, future, past,
A sanguine smile is prone to cast:
–I weep o'er scenes for ever fled;
The impending future wait with dread;
And see the present moment fly,
With languid, listless apathy.
'T is not that when our course was planned,
'T was done with such a partial hand
As strewed, for long succeeding years,
Thy path with flowers, and mine with tears:
For grief has aimed a shaft at thee;
And joy in turn has glanced at me.
E'en should the self-same path be ours,
Set with alternate weeds and flowers,
You from its entrance to its close,
Would point at these, and I at those.
In gathering clouds that o'er us form,
You greet a shade, I bode a storm–
Still choosing to expect the worst;
Since clouds are clouds, and often burst.
Yet soon, you say, they pass, and O,
How cheering is the faithful bow!
Thus argues each; and all the while
I weep;–and you persist to smile.
If in the depth of nature's laws
Philosophy should seek the cause,
Perhaps the whole might be descried
In movements of the crimson tide;
As brisk or fainting pulses show
Its rapid, or its tardy flow.
Howe'er that be, it might be wise
To form a mutual compromise–
Or friendly firm, combining so,
Hope, Fear, Indifference, Care and Co.
Then would concessions fair and true,
Encourage me, attemper you.
You would hope's guile allow, and I,
That fear exceeds reality:–
You, that all gladness shows alloy;
And I, that grief is dashed with joy:–
Care, too distrustful, I confess;
And you, a treacherous sanguineness.
When thus opposed extremes unite,
The aggregate will just be right:
The sanguine smile is checked by fear;
A hope shall glitter through a tear.