The Lapse of Time

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Lament who will, in fruitless tears,
  The speed with which our moments fly;
I sigh not over vanished years,
  But watch the years that hasten by.

Look, how they come,--a mingled crowd
  Of bright and dark, but rapid days;
Beneath them, like a summer cloud,
  The wide world changes as I gaze.

What! grieve that time has brought so soon
  The sober age of manhood on!
As idly might I weep, at noon,
  To see the blush of morning gone.

Could I give up the hopes that glow
  In prospect like Elysian isles;
And let the cheerful future go,
  With all her promises and smiles?

The future!--cruel were the power
  Whose doom would tear thee from my heart.
Thou sweetener of the present hour!
  We cannot--no--we will not part.

Oh, leave me, still, the rapid flight
  That makes the changing seasons gay,
The grateful speed that brings the night,
  The swift and glad return of day;

The months that touch, with added grace,
  This little prattler at my knee,
In whose arch eye and speaking face
  New meaning every hour I see;

The years, that o'er each sister land
  Shall lift the country of my birth,
And nurse her strength, till she shall stand
  The pride and pattern of the earth:

Till younger commonwealths, for aid,
  Shall cling about her ample robe,
And from her frown shall shrink afraid
  The crowned oppressors of the globe.

True--time will seam and blanch my brow--
  Well--I shall sit with aged men,
And my good glass will tell me how
  A grizzly beard becomes me then.

And then should no dishonour lie
  Upon my head, when I am gray,
Love yet shall watch my fading eye,
  And smooth the path of my decay.

Then haste thee, Time--'tis kindness all
  That speeds thy winged feet so fast:
Thy pleasures stay not till they pall,
  And all thy pains are quickly past.

Thou fliest and bear'st away our woes,
  And as thy shadowy train depart,
The memory of sorrow grows
  A lighter burden on the heart.

© William Cullen Bryant