By Ellen P. Allerton

Herein is human nature most perverse:
We spurn the gifts that lie about our door,
Tread on them in our scorn, and madly nurse
A gnawing hunger that still cries for more.
And this for mortals all life’s blessing mars,
Turning to bitterness its offered sweet.
We climb up dizzy crags to grasp the stars,
While unplucked roses bloom about our feet.
The stars are out of reach; the slippery steeps
Prove treacherous footholds, and we trip and fall.
Crushed are the roses; disappointment weeps
O’er bleeding bruises: and that ends it all.
We stretch our empty arms with longing sore,
To clasp the mocking phantom of a dream:
We pant with thirst while standing on a shore
Kissed by the ripples of a living stream.
From sweet, pure waters do we turn aside.
Lured by false fountains in the desert gray:
We chase a vision o’er expanses wide
To find it grow more distant, day by day.
Why do we so? Could we but learn to take,
With thankful hearts, the blessings at our hand.
To drink near springs, nor chase the phantom lake
That swiftly vanishes along the sand!
Suppose we gain our quest; suppose we taste—
Aye, even drink our fill, with lips afire—
Repentant leisure treads the heels of haste:
In sad, remorseful tears ends fierce desire.
Life is too short to waste in vain pursuit
Of swift delight that through the finger slips,
Or, caught and held, oft proves a Dead Sea fruit,
That turns to bitter ashes on the lips.

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