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The Past

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To-day’s most trivial act may hold the seed
Of future fruitfulness, or future dearth;
Oh, cherish always every word and deed!
The simplest record of thyself hath worth.

If thou hast ever slighted one old thought,
Beware lest Grief enforce the truth at last;
The time must come wherein thou shalt be taught
The value and the beauty of the Past.

Not merely as a warner and a guide,
“A voice behind thee,” sounding to the strife;
But something never to be put aside,
A part and parcel of thy present life.

Not as a distant and a darkened sky,
Through which the stars peep, and the moonbeams glow;
But a surrounding atmosphere, whereby
We live and breathe, sustained in pain and woe.

A shadowy land, where joy and sorrow kiss,
Each still to each corrective and relief,
Where dim delights are brightened into bliss,
And nothing wholly perishes but Grief.

Ah, me!—not dies—no more than spirit dies;
But in a change like death is clothed with wings;
A serious angel, with entranced eyes,
Looking to far-off and celestial things.

Source: The Collected Poems of Henry Timrod (1965)
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The Past

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