Samuel Rogers.

Human life, a poem online

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That home-felt joy all other joys excelling.
Sick of the crowd, when enters he — nor then
Forgets the cold indifference of men?
— But nothing lasts. In Autumn at his plough
Met and solicited, behold him now



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Serving the State again — not as before,

Not foot to foot, the war-whoop at his door, —

But in the Senate ; and (though round him fly

The jest, the sneer, the subtle sophistry,)

With honest dignity, with manly sense,

And every charm of natural eloquence,

Like Hampden struggling in his Country's cause, q

The first, the foremost to obey the laws,

The last to brook oppression. On he moves,

Careless of blame while his own heart approves,

Careless of ruin — (" For the general good

'Tis not the first time I shall shed my blood/')

On through that gate misnamed, through which before

Went Sidney, Russel, Raleigh, Cranmer, More,



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On into twilight within walls of stone,
Then to the place of trial ; s and alone, 1
Alone before his judges in array
Stands for his life : there, on that awful day,
Counsel of friends — all human help denied —
All but from her who sits the pen to guide,
Like that sweet Saint who sate by Russel's side"
Under the Judgment-seat. — But guilty men
Triumph not always. To his hearth again,
Again with honour to his hearth restored,
Lo, in the accustomed chair and at the board,
Thrice greeting those that most withdraw their claim,
(The humblest servant calling by his name)

G



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He reads thanksgiving in the eyes of all,

All met as at a holy festival !

— On the day destined for his funeral !

Lo, there the Friend, who, entering where he lay,

Breathed in his drowsy ear " Away, away!

Take thou my cloak — Nay, start not, but obey —

Take it and leave me." And the blushing Maid,

Who through the streets as through a desert strayed;

And, when her dear, dear Father passed along,

Would not be held— but, bursting through the throng.

Halberd and battle-axe — kissed him o'er and o'er ;

Then turned and went — then sought him as before,

Believing she should see his face no more !



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And oh, how changed at once — no heroine here,

But a weak woman worn with grief and fear,

Her darling Mother! Twas but now she smiled,

And now she weeps upon her weeping child!

— But who sits by, her only wish below

At length fulfilled — and now prepared to go ?

His hands on hers — as through the mists of night,

She gazes on him with imperfect sight;

Her glory now, as ever her delight ! x

— To her, methinks, a second Youth is given;

The light upon her face a light from Heaven!

An hour like this is worth a thousand passed
In pomp or ease — Tis present to the last!



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Years glide away untold — 'Tis still the same !
As fresh, as fair as on the day it came !

And now once more where most he loved to be,
In his own fields — breathing tranquillity —
We hail him — not less happy, Fox, than thee !
Thee at St. Anne's so soon of Care beguiled,
Playful, sincere, and artless as a child !
Thee, who wouldst watch a bird's nest on the spray,
Through the green leaves exploring, day by day.
How oft from grove to grove, from seat to seat,
With thee conversing in thy loved retreat,
I saw the sun go down ! — Ah, then 'twas thine
Ne'er to forget some volume half divine,



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Shakspeare's or Dryden's — thro' the chequered shade

Borne in thy hand behind thee as we strayed ;

And where we sate (and many a halt we made)

To read there with a fervour all thy own,

And in thy grand and melancholy tone,

Some splendid passage not to thee unknown,

Fit theme for long discourse. — Thy bell has tolled !

— But in thy place among us we behold

One that resembles thee.

'Tis the sixth hour.
The village-clock strikes from the distant tower.
The ploughman leaves the field ; the traveller hears,
And to the inn spurs forward. Nature wears



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Her sweetest smile ; the day-star in the west
Yet hovering, and the thistle's down at rest.

And such, his labour done, the calm He knows,
Whose footsteps we have followed. Round him glows
An atmosphere that brightens to the last ;
The light, that shines, reflected from the Past,
— And from the Future too ! Active in Thought
Among old books, old friends ; and not unsought
By the wise stranger — in his morning-hours,
When gentle airs stir the fresh-blowing flowers,
He muses, turning up the idle weed;
Or prunes or grafts, or in the yellow mead



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Watches his bees at hiving-time ; and now,
The ladder resting on the orehard-bough,
Culls the delicious fruit that hangs in air,
The purple plum, green fig, or golden pear,
Mid sparkling eyes, and hands uplifted there.

At night, when all, assembling round the tire,
Closer and closer draw till they retire,
A tale is told of India or Japan,
Of merchants from Golcond or Astracan,
What time wild Nature revelled unrestrained,
And Sinbad voyaged and the Caliphs reigned; —
Of some Norwegian, while the icy gale
Rings in the shrouds and beats the iron sail,



.



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Among the snowy Alps of Polar seas
Immoveable — for ever there to freeze !
Or some great Caravan, from well to well
Winding as darkness on the desert fell,
In their long march, such as the Prophet bids,
To Mecca from the Land of Pyramids,
And in an instant lost — a hollow wave
Of burning sand their everlasting grave ! —
Now the scene shifts to Venice — to a square
Glittering with light, all nations masking there,
With light reflected on the tremulous tide,
Where gondolas in gay confusion glide,
Answering the jest, the song on every side ;



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To Naples next — and at the crowded gate,

Where Grief and Fear and wild Amazement wait,

Lo, on his back a Son brings in his Sire, y

Vesuvius blazing like a World on fire ! —

Then, at a sign that never was forgot,

A strain breaks forth (who hears and loves it not ?)

From lute or organ ! 'Tis at parting given,

That in their slumbers they may dream of Heaven ;

Young voices mingling, as it floats along,

In Tuscan air or Handel's sacred song !

And She inspires, whose beauty shines in all :
So soon to weave a daughter's coronal,

H



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And at the nuptial rite smile through her tears ; —

So soon to hover round her full of fears,

And with assurance sweet her soul revive

In child-birth — when a mother's love is most alive !

No, 'tis not here that Solitude is known.
Through the wide world he only is alone
Who lives not for another. Come what will,
The generous man has his companion still ;
The cricket on his hearth ; the buzzing fly
That skims his roof, or, be his roof the sky,
Still with its note of gladness passes by :
And, in an iron cage condemned to dwell,
The cage that stands within the dungeon-cell,



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He feeds his spider — happier at the worst



Than he at large who in himself is curst !



Oh thou all-eloquent, whose mighty mind z
Streams from the depth of ages on mankind,
Streams like the day — who, angel-like, hast shed
Thy full effulgence on the hoary head,
Speaking in Cato's venerable voice,
" Look up, and faint not — faint not, but rejoice!"
From thy Elysium guide him. Age has now
Stamped with its signet that ingenuous brow ;
And, 'mid his old hereditary trees,
Trees he has climbed so oft, he sits and sees
His children's children playing round his knees :



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Then happiest, youngest, when the quoit is flung,
When side by side the archers' bows are strung ;
His to prescribe the place, adjudge the prize,
Envying no more the young their energies
Than they an old man when his words are wise ;
His a delight how pure , . . without alloy;
Strong in their strength, rejoicing in their joy!

Now in their turn assisting, they repay
The anxious cares of many and many a day;
And now by those he loves relieved, restored,
His very wants and weaknesses afford
A feeling of enjoyment. In his walks,
Leaning on them, how oft he stops and talks,



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While they look up! Their questions, their replies,
Fresh as the welling waters, round him rise,
Gladdening his spirit : and his theme the past,
How eloquent he is ! His thoughts flow fast;
And while his heart (oh can the heart grow old ?
False are the tales that in the World are told !)
Swells in his voice, he knows not where to end ;
Like one discoursing of an absent friend.

But there are moments which he calls his own.
Then, never less alone than when alone,
Those that he loved so long and sees no more,
Loved and still loves — not dead — but gone before,



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He gathers round him ; and revives at will
Scenes in his life — that breathe enchantment still-
That come not now at dreary intervals —
But where a light as from the Blessed falls,
A light such guests bring ever — pure and holy —
Lapping the soul in sweetest melancholy!
—Ah then less willing (nor the choice condemn)

To live with others than to think on them !

And now behold him up the hill ascending,
Memory and Hope like evening-stars attending ;
Sustained, excited, till his course is run,
By deeds of virtue done or to be done.



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When on his couch he sinks at length to rest,
Those by his counsel saved, his power redressed,
Those by the World shunned ever as unblest,
At whom the rich man's dog growls from the gate,
But whom he sought out, sitting desolate,
Come and stand round — the widow with her child,
As when she first forgot her tears and smiled !
They, who watch by him, see not; but he sees,
Sees and exults — Were ever dreams like these?
They, who watch by him, hear not; but he hears,
And Earth recedes, and Heaven itself appears !

'Tis past! That hand we grasped, alas, in vain!
Nor shall we look upon his face again!



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But to his closing eyes*, for all were there,
Nothing was wanting; and, through many a year,
We shall remember with a fond delight
The words so precious which we heard to-night ;
His parting, though awhile our sorrow flows,
Like setting suns or music at the close !

Then was the drama ended. Not till then,
So full of chance and change the lives of men.
Could we pronounce him happy. Then secure
From pain, from grief, and all that we endure,
He slept in peace — say rather soared to Heaven,
Upborne from Earth by Him to whom 'tis given



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In his right hand to hold the golden key

That opes the portals of Eternity.

When by a good man's grave I muse alone,

Methinks an Angel sits upon the stone ;

Like those of old, on that thrice-hallowed night,

Who sate and watched in raiment heavenly-bright ;

And, with a voice inspiring joy not fear,

Says, pointing upward, that he is not here,

That he is risen !

But the day is spent ;
And stars are kindling in the firmament,
To us how silent — though like ours perchance
Busy and full of life and circumstance ;



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Where some the paths of Wealth and Power pursue.
Of Pleasure some, of Happiness a few;
And, as the sun goes round — a sun not ours —
While from her lap another Nature showers
Gifts of her own, some from the crowd retire,
Think on themselves, within, without inquire ;
At distance dwell on all that passes there,
All that their world reveals of good and fair ;
And, as they wander, picturing things, like me,
Not as they are but as they ought to be,
Trace out the Journey through their little Day,
And fondly dream an idle hour away.



NOTES.



NOTES.



Note a. Page 13, line 3.
Our pathway leads but, to a precipice;
See Bossuet, Sermon sur la Resurrection.

Note b. Page 15, line 4.
Through the dim curtains of Futurity.

Fancy can hardly forbear to conjecture with what temper Milton
surveyed the silent progress of his work, and marked his reputation
stealing its way in a kind of subterraneous current through fear
and silence. I cannot but conceive him calm and confident, little
disappointed, not at all. dejected, relying on his own merit with
steady consciousness, and waiting, without impatience, the vicis-
situdes of opinion, and the impartiality of a future generation.

Johnson.



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Notk c. Page 17, line 11.

like the atone
That sheds awhile a lustre all its own.

See ' Observations on a Diamond that shines in the dark.'

Boyle's Works, 1.789.



Note d. Page 19, line 1.
Schooled and trained tip to Wisdom from his birth ;

Cicero, in his Essay De Senectute, has drawn his images from
the better walks of life; and Shakspeare, in his Seven Ages, has
done so too. But Shakspeare treats his subject satirically; Cicero
as a Philosopher. In the dignified portrait of Cato we discover
no traces of " the lean and slippered Pantaloon."

Every object has a bright and a dark side ; and I have endea-
voured to look at things as Cicero has done. By some however
I may be thought to have followed too much my own dream of
happiness ; and in such a dream indeed I have often passed a
solitary hour. It was Castle-building once ; now it is no longer
so. But whoever would try to realize it, would not perhaps repent
of his endeavour.



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Note e. Page 22, line 13.

" These are my Jewels ! "

The anecdote, here alluded to, is related by Valerius Maximus,
Lib. iv. c. 4.

Note f. Page 23, line 2.
" Suffer these little ones to come to me!"

In our early Youth, while yet we live only among those we
love, we love without restraint, and our hearts overflow in every
look, word, and action. But when we enter the world and are
repulsed by strangers, forgotten by friends, we grow more and
more timid in our approaches even to those we love best.

How delightful to us then are the little caresses of children !
All sincerity, all affection, they fly into our arms ; and then, and
then only, we feel our first confidence, our first pleasure.

Note g. Page 24, line 3.
Like Her most gentle, most unfortunate,

Before I went into Germany, I came to Brodegate in Leices-
tershire, to take my leave of that noble Lady Jane Grey, to whom
I was exceeding much beholding. Her Parents, the Duke and



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Duchess, with all the Houshold, Gentlemen and Gentlewomen, were
hunting in the Park. I found her in her chamber, reading Phaedo
Platonis in Greek, and that with as much delight as some Gentle-
men would read a merry tale in Boccace. After salutation, and
duty done, with some other talk, I asked her, why she would lose
such pastime in the park ? Smiling, she answered me ; " I wist, all
their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find
in Plato." Roger Ascham.

Note h. Page 24, line 8.
Then is the Age of Admiration —

Dante was pointed out to Petrarch when a boy ; and Dryden
to Pope.

Who does not wish that Dante and Dryden could have known
the value of the homage that was paid them, and foreseen the
greatness of their young admirers ?

Note i. Page 25, line 15.
Scenes such as Milton sought, but sought in vain :

He had arrived at Naples ; and was preparing to visit Sicily and
Greece, when, hearing of the troubles in England, he thought it
proper to hasten home.



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Note k. Page 26, line 1.
And Milton's self

I began thus far to assent ... to an inward prompting which
now grew daily upon me, that by labour and intent study, (which 1
take to be my portion in this life) joined with the strong propensity
of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to after times,
as they should not willingly let it die. Milton .

Note 1. Page 29, line 1.
'twas at matin-time

Love and Devotion are said to be nearly allied. Boccaccio
fell in love at Naples in the church of St. Lorenzo ; as Petrarch had
done at Avignon in the church of St. Clair.

Note m. Page 30, line 13.
Lovely before, oh say how lovely now !

Is it not true, that the Young not only appear to be, but really
are most beautiful in the presence of those they love ? It calls
forth all their beauty.



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Note n. Page 42, line 1.
He goes, and Night comes as it never came !

These circumstances, as well as some others that follow, are
happily, as far as they regard England, of an antient date. To
us the miseries inflicted by a foreign invader are now known only
by description. Many generations have passed away since our
country-women saw the smoke of an enemy's camp.

But the same passions are always at work every where, and
their effects are always nearly the same ; though the circumstances
that attend them are infinitely various.

Note o. Page 46, line 3.
That house with many a funeral-garland hung
A custom in some of our Country churches.

Note q. Page 48, line 7.
Like Hampden struggling in his Country's cause,

Zeuxis is said to have drawn his Helen from an assemblage of
the most beautiful women ; and many a Writer of Fiction, in
forming a life to his mind, has recourse to the brightest moments
in the lives of others.



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I may be suspected of having done so here, and of having de-
signed, as it were, from living models ; but, by making an allusion
now and then to those who have really lived, I thought I should
give something of interest to the picture, as well as better illus-
trate my meaning.

Note r. Page 48, line 13.
On through that gate misnamed,
Traitor's gate; the water-gate in the Tower of London.

Note s. Page 49, line 2.
Then to the place of trial;

This very slight sketch of Civil Dissension is taken from our own
annals; but, for an obvious reason, not from those of our own age.

The persons here immediately alluded to lived more than a
hundred years ago in a reign which Blackstone has j ustly represented
as wicked, sanguinary, and turbulent; but such times have always
afforded the most signal instances of heroic courage and ardent
affection.

Great reverses, like theirs, lay open the human heart. They
occur indeed but seldom ; yet all men are liable to them ; all, when
they occur to others, make them more or less their own; and,
were we to describe our condition to an inhabitant of some other
planet, could we omit what forms so striking a circumstance in
human life f



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Note t. Page 49, line 2.

and alone,

In the reign of William the Third the law was altered. A pri-
soner, prosecuted for high treason, may now make his full defence

by counsel.

Note u. Page 49, line 7.

Like that sweet Saint who sate by Russet's side
Under the Judgment-seat.

Lord Russel. May I have somebody write to help my memory ?

Mr. Attorney General. Yes, a Servant.

Lord Chief Justice. Any of your Servants shall assist you in

writing any thing you please for you.
Lord Russel. My Wife is here, my Lord, to do it.

State Trials, II.
Note x. Page 51, line 9.

Her glory now, as ever her delight !

Epaminondas, after his victory at Leuctra, rejoiced most of all
at the pleasure which it would give his father and mother ; and
who would not have envied them their feelings?

Cornelia was called at Rome the mother-in-law of Scipio.
" When," said she to her sons, " shall I be called the mother of
the Gracchi ? *



( /



Note y. Page 57, line 3.
Lo, on his back a Son brings in his Sire,
An act of filial piety recorded on an old Greek coin.

Note z. Page 59, line 3.
Oh thou, all-eloquent, whose mighty mind

Cicero. It is remarkable that, among the comforts of Old
Age, he has not mentioned those arising from the society of women
and children. Perhaps the husband of Terentia and ' the father
of Marcus felt something on the subject, of which he was willing
to spare himself the recollection.'



LINES

WRITTEN AT P^iSTUM,

MARCH 4, 1815.



LINES WRITTEN AT PiESTUM.



They stand between the mountains and the sea ;
Awful memorials, but of whom we know not ! *
The seaman, passing, gazes from the deck.
The buffalo-driver, in his shaggy cloak,

* The temples of Peestum are three in number ; and have sur-
vived, nearly nine centuries, the total destruction of the city. Tra-
dition is silent concerning them ; but they must have existed now
between two and three thousand years.



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Points to the work of magic and moves on.

Time was they stood along the crowded street,

Temples of Gods ! and on their ample steps

What various habits, various tongues beset

The brazen gates for prayer and sacrifice !

Time was perhaps the third was sought for Justice;

And here the accuser stood, and there the accused ;

And here the judges sate, and heard, and judged.

All silent now! — as in the ages past,

Trodden under foot and mingled, dust with dust

How many centuries did the sun go round
From Mount Alburnus to the Tyrrhene sea,
While, by some spell rendered invisible,



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Or, if approached, approached by him alone
Who saw as though he saw not, they remained
As in the darkness of a sepulchre,
Waiting the appointed time ! All, all within
Proclaims that Nature had resumed her right,
And taken to herself what man renounced;
No cornice, triglyph, or worn abacus,
But with thick ivy hung or branching fern,
Their iron-brown overspread with brightest verdure

From my youth upward have I longed to tread
This classic ground. — And am I here at last ?
Wandering at will through the long porticoes,
And catching, as through some majestic grove,



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Now the blue ocean, and now, chaos-like,
Mountains and mountain-gulphs, and, half-way up,
Towns like the living rock from which they grew?
A cloudy region, black and desolate,
Where once a slave withstood a world in arms, *

The air is sweet with violets, running wild f-
Mid broken sculptures and fallen capitals ;
Sweet as when Tully, writing down his thoughts, %
Those thoughts so precious and so lately lost,

* Spartacus. See Plutarch in the Life of Crassus.

•f The violets of Paestum were as proverbial as the roses. Mar-
tial mentions them with the honey of Hybla.

J The introduction to his treatise on Glory. Cic. ad Att. xvi. 0'.
For an account of the loss of that treatise, see Petrarch, Epist.
Rer. Senilium. xv. i. and Bayle, Diet, in Alcyonius.



85

Turning to thee, divine Philosophy,

Who ever cam'st to calm his troubled soul,

Sailed slowly by, two thousand years ago,

For Athens ; when a ship, if north-east winds

Blew from the Paestan gardens, slacked her course.

On as he moved along the level shore,
These temples, in their splendour eminent
Mid arcs and obelisks, and domes and towers,
Reflecting back the radiance of the west,
Well might he dream of Glory! — Now, coiled up.
The serpent sleeps within them : the she-wolf
Suckles her young: and, as alone I stand



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In this, the nobler pile, the elements

Of earth and air its only floor and covering,

How solemn is the stillness! Nothing stirs

Save the shrill-voiced cigala flitting round

On the rough pediment to sit and sing ;

Or the green lizard rustling through the grass,

And up the fluted shaft with short quick motion,

To vanish in the chinks that Time has made.

In such an hour as this, the sun's broad disk
Seen at his setting, and a flood of light
Filling the courts of these old sanctuaries,
(Gigantic shadows, broken and confused,
Across the innumerable columns flung)



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In such an hour he came, who saw and told,
Led by the mighty Genius of the Place.*

Walls of some capital city first appeared,
Half razed, half sunk, or scattered as in scorn;
— And what within them? what but in the midst
These Three in more than their original grandeur,
And, round about, no stone upon another?
As if the spoiler had fallen back in fear,
And, turning, left them to the elements.

Tis said a stranger in the days of old
(Some say a Dorian, some a Sybarite;

* They are said to have been discovered by accident about the
middle of the last century.



88

But distant things are ever lost in clouds)

'Tis said a stranger came, and, with his plough,

Traced out the site ; and Posidonia rose,*

Severely great, Neptune the tutelar God ;

A Homer's language murmuring in her streets,

And in her haven many a mast from Tyre.

Then came another, an unbidden guest.

He knocked and entered with a train in arms ;

And all was changed, her very name and language !

The Tyrian merchant, shipping at his door

Ivory and gold, and silk, and frankincense,

* Originally a Greek city under that name, and afterwards a
Roman city under the name of Paestum. See Mitford's Hist, of
Greece, chap. x. sect. 2. It was surprised and destroyed by the
Saracens at the beginning of the tenth century.



89

Sailed as before, but, sailing, cried " For Psestum!"
And now a Virgil, now an Ovid sung
Paestum's twice-blowing roses ; while, within,
Parents and children mourned; and, every year,
('Twas on the day of some old festival)
Met to give way to tears, and, once again,
Talk in the antient tongue of things gone by.*
At length an Arab climbed the battlements,
Slaying the sleepers in the dead of night ;
And from all eyes the glorious vision fled !


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Online LibrarySamuel RogersHuman life, a poem → online text (page 2 of 3)