Orson F. Whitney's "What is Life?" (1882)

There are, who deem life's lingering durance
Designed for freedom and delight ;
Its clanking fetters claim as music,
Its darkness worship as 'twere light.

Nor mindful still of loftier purpose,
Vain pleasure's winged flight pursue ;
Their dream: "To-day; there comes no morrow" —
That tinkling lie with sound so true.

Was such the charm whose soft alluring
Drew spirits bright from heavenly bliss ?
Did morning stars hymn loud hosannas
O'er false and fatal theme like this ?

Speak thou, my soul, that once did mingle
Where souls were never doomed to die ;
Would worlds on worlds like this have won thee
From glorious realms yet glittering high,

Where Father, Mother, friends, forsaken
Till time their hundred-fold restore.
Await to hail thy welcome coming"
When time and trial are no more ?

Self-exiled from yon realms supernal,
Obedient to Omniscient rule,
Hiedst here to chase life's fleeting phantoms,
A truant in Time's precious school ?

Son of a God, 'mid scenes celestial,
Fellst thou from freedom to be free ?
Or, hoping rise of endless raptures.
For time renounced Eternity ?

O blindness dense, delusion mortal !
Where darkness reigns disguised as day.
Where prison seems but sportive playground,
And spendthrifts waste life's pearls away !

Be this their bourn that seek no brighter.
Whom naught save worldly pleasures please;
Graves are the goal of earthly glory.
But man was meant for none of these.

Call earth thy home, clasp thou its shadows,
Till here thy little day be done ;
My home is where the starry kingdoms
Roll round the Kingdom of the Sun !

I came not forth in quest of freedom,
To shrink from peril or from pain ;
To learn from death life's deepest lessons,
I sank to rise, I serve to reign.

'Tis contrast sways unceasing sceptre
O'er vast appreciation's realm,
E'en Gods, through sacrifice descending.
Triumphant rise to overwhelm.

Thus fetters teach the force of freedom,
Thus sickness, joys of future health,
Thus folly's fate proves wisdom's warning.
Thus poverty prepares for wealth.

Souls to whom life unfolds its meaning,
Ne'er hope full happiness on earth,
But patient bide that brighter morrow
Which brings again celestial birth.


NOTE: This poem was respectfully inscribed to the author's friend, President Joseph F. Smith.


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