I know not how it may be with others
Who sit amid relics of householdry
That date from the days of their mothers’ mothers,
But well I know how it is with me
I see the hands of the generations
That owned each shiny familiar thing
In play on its knobs and indentations,
And with its ancient fashioning
Hands behind hands, growing paler and paler,
As in a mirror a candle-flame
Shows images of itself, each frailer
As it recedes, though the eye may frame
Its shape the same.
On the clock’s dull dial a foggy finger,
Moving to set the minutes right
With tentative touches that lift and linger
In the wont of a moth on a summer night,
Creeps to my sight.
On this old viol, too, fingers are dancing –
As whilom–just over the strings by the nut,
The tip of a bow receding, advancing
In airy quivers, as if it would cut
The plaintive gut.
And I see a face by that box for tinder,
Glowing forth in fits from the dark,
And fading again, as the linten cinder
Kindles to red at the flinty spark,
Or goes out stark.
Well, well. It is best to be up and doing,
The world has no use for one to-day
Who eyes things thus–no aim pursuing!
He should not continue in this stay,
But sink away.