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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Aspiration
By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)
 
Extract from a poem delivered at the departure of the Senior Class of Yale College, in 1827

WE shall go forth together. There will come
Alike the day of trial unto all,
And the rude world will buffet us alike,
Temptation hath a music for all ears;
And mad ambition trumpeteth to all;        5
And the ungovernable thought within
Will be in every bosom eloquent:
But when the silence and the calm come on,
And the high seal of character is set,
We shall not all be similar. The flow        10
Of lifetime is a graduated scale;
And deeper than the vanities of power,
Or the vain pomp of glory, there is writ
A standard measuring its worth for heaven.
The pathway to the grave may be the same;        15
And the proud man shall tread it, and the low
With his bowed head shall bear him company.
Decay will make no difference, and Death
With his cold hand shall make no difference;
And there will be no precedence of power,        20
In waking at the coming trump of God:
But in the temper of the invisible mind,
The godlike and undying intellect,
There are distinctions that will live in heaven,
When time is a forgotten circumstance!        25
The elevated brow of kings will lose
The impress of regalia, and the slave
Will wear his immortality as free,
Beside the crystal waters: but the depth
Of glory in the attributes of God        30
Will measure the capacities of mind;
And as the angels differ, will the ken
Of gifted spirits glorify him more.
It is life’s mystery. The soul of man
Createth its own destiny of power;        35
And as the trial is intenser here,
His being hath a nobler strength in heaven.
 
  What is its earthly victory? Press on!
For it hath tempted angels. Yet press on!
For it shall make you mighty among men;        40
And from the eyrie of your eagle thought
Ye shall look down on monarchs. Oh press on!
For the high ones and powerful shall come
To do you reverence; and the beautiful
Will know the purer language of your brow,        45
And read it like a talisman of love!
Press on! for it is godlike to unloose
The spirit, and forget yourself in thought;
Bending a pinion for the deeper sky,
And in the very fetters of your flesh        50
Mating with the pure essences of heaven!
Press on! “for in the grave there is no work,
And no device.” Press on, while yet ye may!
 
 
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