Verse > Anthologies > George Willis Cooke, ed. > The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology
George Willis Cooke, comp.  The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology.  1903.
By William Ellery Channing (1818–1901)
THE BIBLE is a book worthy to read;
The life of those great Prophets is the life we need,
From all delusive seeming ever freed.
Be not afraid to utter what thou art;
’T is no disgrace to keep an open heart;        5
A soul free, frank, and loving friends to aid,
Not even does this harm a gentle maid.
Strive as thou canst, thou wilt not value o’er
Thy life. Thou standest on a lighted shore,
And from the waves of an unfathomed sea        10
The noblest impulses flow tenderly to thee;
Feel them as they arise, and take them free.
          Better live unknown,
          No heart but thy own
          Beating ever near,        15
          To no mortal dear
          In thy hemisphere,
          Poor and wanting bread,
          Steeped in poverty,
          Than to be a dread,        20
          Than to be afraid,
          From thyself to flee;
          For it is not living
          To a soul believing,
          To change each noble joy        25
          Which our strength employs,
          For a state half rotten
          And a life of toys.
          Better be forgotten
          Than lose equipoise.        30
How shall I live? In earnestness.
What shall I do? Work earnestly.
What shall I give? A willingness.
What shall I gain? Tranquillity.
But do you mean a quietness        35
In which I act and no man bless?
Flash out in action infinite and free,
Action conjoined with deep tranquillity,
Resting upon the soul’s true utterance,
And life shall flow as merry as a dance.        40
Life is too good to waste, enough to prize;
Keep looking round with clear unhooded eyes;
Love all thy brothers, and for them endure
Many privations; the reward is sure.
A little thing! There is no little thing;        45
Through all a joyful song is murmuring;
Each leaf, each stem, each sound in winter drear
Has deepest meanings for an anxious ear.
Thou seest life is sad; the father mourns his wife and child;
Keep in the midst of heavy sorrows a fair aspect mild.        50
A howling fox, a shrieking owl,
A violent distracting ghoul,
Forms of the most infuriate madness,—
These may not move thy heart to gladness,
But look within the dark outside,        55
Nought shalt thou hate and nought deride.
Thou meet’st a common man
With a delusive show of can.
His acts are petty forgeries of natural greatness,
That show a dreadful lateness        60
Of this life’s mighty impulses; a want of truthful earnestness;
He seems, not does, and in that shows
    No true nobility,—
    A poor ductility,
That no proper office knows,        65
Not even estimation small of human woes.
    Be not afraid,
    His understanding aid
    With thy own pure content,
    On highest purpose bent.        70
Leave him not lonely,
For that his admiration
Fastens on self and seeming only;
Make a right dedication
Of all thy strength to keep        75
From swelling that so ample heap
Of lives abused, of virtue given for nought,
And thus it shall appear for all in nature hast thou wrought.
If thou unconsciously perform what ’s good,
Like nature’s self thy proper mood.        80
A life well spent is like a flower,
That had bright sunshine its brief hour;
It flourished in pure willingness;
Discovered strongest earnestness;
Was fragrant for each lightest wind;        85
Was of its own particular kind;—
Nor knew a tone of discord sharp;
Breathed alway like a silver harp;
And went to immortality
A very proper thing to die.        90

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