Collected Poems
An eminence transformed and ordinary;
He knows too much of what the world has hushed
In others, to be loud now for himself;
He knows now at what height low enemies
May reach his heart, and high friends let him fall;
But what not even such as he may know
Bedevils him the worst: his lark may sing
At heaven ' s gate how he will, and for as long
As joy may listen, but he sees no gate,
Save one whereat the spent clay waits a little
Before the churchyard has it, and the worm.
Not long ago, late in an afternoon,
I came on him unseen down Lambeth way,
And on my life I was afear ' d of him:
He gloomed and mumbled like a soul from Tophet,
His hands behind him and his head bent solemn.
< r What is it now, " said I, " another woman? "
That made him sorry for me, and he smiled.
" No, Ben, " he mused; " it ' s Nothing. It ' s all Nothing.
We come, we go; and when we ' re done, we ' re done;
Spiders and flies we ' re mostly one or t ' other
We come, we go; and when we ' re done, we ' re done;
" By God, you sing that song as if you knew it! "
Said I, by way of cheering him; " what ails ye? "
" I think I must have come down here to think, "
Says he to that, and pulls his little beard;
" Your fly will serve as well as anybody,
And what ' s his hour? He flies, and flies, and flies,
And in his fly ' s mind has a brave appearance;
And then your spider gets him in her net,
And eats him out, and hangs him up to dry.
That ' s Nature, the kind mother of us all.
And then your slattern housemaid swings her broom,
And where ' s your spider? And that ' s Nature, also.
It ' s Nature, and it ' s Nothing. It ' s all Nothing.