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KNOW ye in ages past that tower
  By human hands built strong and high?
Arch over arch, with magic power,
Rose proudly each successive hour,
  To reach the happy sky.

It rose, till human pride was crushed--
  Quick came the unexpected change;
A moment every tone was hushed,
And then again they freely gushed,
But sounded wild and strange.

Loud, quick, and clear, each voice was heard,
  Calling for lime, and stone, and wood,
All uttered words--but not one word;
More than the carol of a bird,
  Their fellows understood.

Is there no Babel but that one,
  The storied tower of other days?--
Where, round the giant pile of stone,
Pausing they stood--their labour done,
  To listen in amaze.

Fair springs the tower of hope and fame,
  When all our life is fairy land;
Till, scarcely knowing what to blame,
Our fellows cease to feel the same--
  We cease to understand.

Then, when they coldly smile to hear
  The burning dreams of earlier days;
The rapid fall from hope to fear,
When eyes whose every glance was dear,
  Seem changing as they gaze:

Then, when we feel 'twere vain to speak
  Of fervent hopes--aspirings high--
Of thoughts for which all words are weak--
Of wild far dreams, wherein we seek
  Knowledge of earth and sky:

Of communings with nature's God,
  When impulse deep the soul hath moved--

Of tears which sink within the sod,
Where, mingling with the valley clod,
  Lies something we have loved:

Then cometh ours;--and better theirs--
  Of stranger tongues together brought,
Than that in which we all have shares,
A Babel in a world of cares--
  Of feeling and of thought.

© Caroline Norton