Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
XVIII. The Great Mystery
The Choice
By Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
WATCH thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  Or art thou sure thou shalt have time for death?
  Is not the day which God’s word promiseth
To come man knows not when? In yonder sky,
Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth; can I        5
  Or thou assure him of his goal? God’s breath
  Even at the moment haply quickeneth
The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
Though screened and hid, shall walk the daylight here.
  And dost thou prate of all that man shall do?        10
    Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to be
    Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
  Will his strength slay thy worm in Hell? Go to:
Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  Outstretch’d in the sun’s warmth upon the shore,
  Thou say’st: ‘Man’s measured path is all gone o’er:
Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
Man clomb until he touched the truth; and I,
  Even I, am he whom it was destined for.’        20
  How should this be? Art thou then so much more
Than they who sowed, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed mound
  Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown’d.        25
  Miles and miles distant though the grey line be,
And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
  Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.

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