The Thread of Life


The irresponsive silence of the land,
     The irresponsive silence of the sea,
     Speak both one message of sense to me:—
‘Aloof, aloof, we stand aloof; so stand
Thou too aloof bound with the flawless band
     Of inner solitude; we bind not thee;
     But who from thy self-chain shall set thee free?
What heart shall touch thy heart?
What hand thy hand?’—
And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,
     And sometimes I remember days of old
When fellowship seemed not so far to seek
     And all the world and I seemed much less cold,
     And at the rainbow’s foot lay surely gold,
And hope felt strong and life itself not weak.


Thus I am mine own prison. Everything
     Around me free and sunny and at ease:
     Or if in shadow, in a shade of trees
Which the sun kisses, where the gay birds sing
And where all winds make various murmuring;
     Where bees are found, with honey for the bees;
     Where sounds are music, and where silences
Are music of an unlike fashioning.
Then gaze I at the merrymaking crew,
     And smile a moment and a moment sigh,
Thinking, Why can I not rejoice with you?
     But soon I put the foolish fancy by:
I am not what I have nor what I do;
     But what I was I am, I am even I.


Therefore myself is that one only thing
     I hold to use or waste, to keep or give;
     My sole possession every day I live,
And still mine own despite Time’s winnowing.
Ever mine own, while moons and seasons bring
     From crudeness ripeness mellow and sanative;
     Ever mine own, till Death shall ply his sieve;
And still mine own, when saints break grave and sing.
And this myself as king unto my King
     I give, to Him Who gave Himself for me;
Who gives Himself to me, and bids me sing
     A sweet new song of His redeemed set free;
He bids me sing, O Death, where is thy sting?
     And sing, O grave, where is thy victory?

Christina Georgina Rossetti
before 1882

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