For certain minutes at the least That crafty demon and that loud beast That plague me day and night Ran out of my sight; Though I had long perned in the gyre, Between my hatred and desire. I saw my freedom won And all laugh in the sun.
The glittering eyes in a death's head Of old Luke Wadding's portrait said Welcome, and the Ormondes all Nodded upon the wall, And even Strafford smiled as though It made him happier to know I understood his plan. Now that the loud beast ran There was no portrait in the Gallery But beckoned to sweet company, For all men's thoughts grew clear Being dear as mine are dear.
But soon a tear-drop started up, For aimless joy had made me stop Beside the little lake To watch a white gull take A bit of bread thrown up into the air; Now gyring down and perning there He splashed where an absurd Portly green-pated bird Shook off the water from his back; Being no more demoniac A stupid happy creature Could rouse my whole nature.
Yet I am certain as can be That every natural victory Belongs to beast or demon, That never yet had freeman Right mastery of natural things, And that mere growing old, that brings Chilled blood, this sweetness brought; Yet have no dearer thought Than that I may find out a way To make it linger half a day.
O what a sweetness strayed Through barren Thebaid, Or by the Mareotic sea When that exultant Anthony And twice a thousand more Starved upon the shore And withered to a bag of bones! What had the Caesars but their thrones?