Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Spring of Life
By Richard Dabney (1787?–1825)
’T IS 1 not enough that virtue sways
Our present hours and passing days;
’T is not enough, our purpose be
From every base intention free;
All that polluted life’s first source        5
Will float along its downward course,
And dark shall be each future year,
Unless the spring of life is clear.
Though words of truth eternal say,
Repentance washes guilt away;        10
If former times display a stain,
The future shall the blot retain;
The hue and color of the past
Upon the coming hour is cast;
And dark shall be each future year,        15
Unless the spring of life be clear.
O then, upon those future years,
Bestow not agony and tears!
Though all thy sins shall be forgiven,
And blotted from the book of heaven;        20
Their shades shall flit around, and fling
Dark horror from their raven wing;
And bitter be each future year,
Unless the spring of life is clear.
*      *      *      *      *
In early life when trusting youth        25
Thinks all is goodness, worth, and truth;
A holy inmate charms man’s breast,
And lulls its many woes to rest.
It watches o’er his pillow’d head,
And lures sweet slumbers to his bed;        30
It adds fresh charms to morning’s ray,
And guards him through the eventful day—
No might, but his, can bid depart,
That holy inmate from his heart—
’T is stainless conscience—boon of heaven,        35
To man, for heavenly purpose, given.
But when amidst the world he roves,
And that he ought to hate, he loves,
Unheeded pass its frequent cries,
The holy inmate quickly dies;        40
But oft within the varying scene,
When thought his follies wakes between;
But oft within the gloom of night,
Its shade, avenging, meets his sight—
Comes, deck’d with all the warmth of youth,        45
When life was love, and peace, and truth,
Comes, deck’d with all the charms that blest,
In early life, his guiltless breast.
It smiles—in fancied view, appears,
The virtuous bliss of youthful years;        50
It frowns—before his blasted eyes,
His present vices hideous rise.
Note 1. Darney was a native of Virginia; he resided for a time in Philadelphia, where he was engaged in some literary occupations. Further than this, we have obtained no information respecting him. He is the author of a small volume of poems published in 1814 at Philadelphia, several of which were included in Roscoe’s specimens of American poetry, and received a good deal of commendation from the editor in his critical remarks. [back]

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