The Unexpected Peril
Unlike the youth that all men say
   They prize—youth of abounding blood,
In love with the sufficient day,
   And gay in growth, and strong in bud;
Unlike was mine! Then my first slumber
   Nightly rehearsed my last; each breath
Knew itself one of the unknown number.
   But Life was urgent with me as Death.
My shroud was in the flocks; the hill
   Within its quarry locked my stone;
My bier grew in the woods; and still
   Life spurred me where I paused alone.
“Begin!” Life called. Again her shout,
   “Make haste while it is called to-day!”
Her exhortations plucked me out,
   Hunted me, turned me, held me at bay.
But if my youth is thus hard pressed
   (I thought) what of a later year?
If the end so threats this tender breast,
   What of the days when it draws near?
Draws near, and little done? Yet lo,
   Dread has forborne, and haste lies by.
I was beleaguered; now the foe
   Has raised the siege, I know not why.
I see them troop away; I ask
   Were they in sooth mine enemies—
Terror, the doubt, the lash, the task?
   What heart has my new housemate, Ease?
How am I left, at last, alive,
   To make a stranger of a tear?
What did I do one day to drive
   From me the vigilant angel, Fear?
The diligent angel, Labour? Ay,
   The inexorable angel, Pain?
Menace me, lest indeed I die,
   Sloth! Turn; crush, teach me fear again!

Webpage © 2001 ELC
Lane Core Jr. (
Created April 9, 2001; not revised.