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RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES, LORD HOUGHTON

1809-1885

706                                           The Men of Old

I KNOW not that the men of old
  Were better than men now,
Of heart more kind, of hand more bold,
  Of more ingenuous brow:
I heed not those who pine for force
  A ghost of Time to raise,
As if they thus could check the course
  Of these appointed days.
Still it is true, and over true,
  That I delight to close
This book of life self-wise and new,
  And let my thoughts repose
On all that humble happiness
  The world has since forgone,
The daylight of contentedness
  That on those faces shone.
With rights, tho not too closely scannd
  Enjoyd as far as known;
With will by no reverse unmannd,
  With pulse of even tone,
They from to-day and from to-night
  Expected nothing more
Than yesterday and yesternight
  Had profferd them before.
To them was Life a simple art
  Of duties to be done,
A game where each man took his part,
  A race where all must run;
A battle whose great scheme and scope
  They little cared to know,
Content as men-at-arms to cope
  Each with his fronting foe.

Man now his Virtues diadem
  Puts on and proudly wears:
Great thoughts, great feelings came to them
  Like instincts, unawares.
Blending their souls sublimest needs
  With tasks of every day,
They went about their gravest deeds
  As noble boys at play.

 

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