Human Life

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If dead, we cease to be ; if total gloom Swallow up life's brief flash for aye, we fare As summer-gusts, of sudden birth and doom, Whose sound and motion not alone declare, But are their whole of being ! If the breath Be Life itself, and not its task and tent, If even a soul like Milton's can know death ; O Man ! thou vessel purposeless, unmeant, Yet drone-hive strange of phantom purposes ! Surplus of Nature's dread activity, Which, as she gazed on some nigh-finished vase, Retreating slow, with meditative pause, She formed with restless hands unconsciously. Blank accident ! nothing's anomaly ! If rootless thus, thus substanceless thy state, Go, weigh thy dreams, and be thy hopes, thy fears, The counter-weights !--Thy laughter and thy tears Mean but themselves, each fittest to create And to repay the other ! Why rejoices Thy heart with hollow joy for hollow good ? Why cowl thy face beneath the mourner's hood ? Why waste thy sighs, and thy lamenting voices, Image of Image, Ghost of Ghostly Elf, That such a thing as thou feel'st warm or cold ? Yet what and whence thy gain, if thou withhold These costless shadows of thy shadowy self ? Be sad ! be glad ! be neither ! seek, or shun ! Thou hast no reason why ! Thou canst have none ; Thy being's being is contradiction.