Robert Green Ingersoll
BORN of love and hope, of ecstasy and pain, of agony and fear, of tears and joy — dowered with the wealth of two united hearts — held in happy arms, with lips upon life’s drifted font, blue-veined and fair, where perfect peace finds perfect form — rocked by willing feet and wooed to shadowy shores of sleep by siren mother singing soft and low — looking with wonder’s wide and startled eyes at common things of life and day — taught by want and wish and contact with the things that touch the dimpled flesh of babes — lured by light and flame, and charmed by color’s wondrous robes — learning the use of hands and feet, and by the love of mimicry beguiled to utter speech — releasing prisoned thoughts from crabbed and curious marks on soiled and tattered leaves — puzzling the brain with crooked numbers and their changing, tangled worth — and so through years of alternating day and night, until the captive grows familiar with the chains and walls and limitations of a life.
And time runs on in sun and shade, until the one of all the world is wooed and won, and all the lore of love is taught and learned again. Again a home is built with the fair chamber wherein faint dreams, like cool and shadowy vales, divide the billowed hours of love. Again the miracle of a birth — the pain and joy, the kiss of welcome and the cradle-song drowning the drowsy prattle of a babe.
And then the sense of obligation and of wrong — pity for those who toil and weep — tears for the imprisoned and despised — love for the generous dead, and in the heart the rapture of a high resolve.
And then ambition, with its lust of pelf and place and power, longing to put upon its breast distinction’s worthless badge. Then keener thoughts of men, and eyes that see behind the smiling mask of craft — flattered no more by the obsequious cringe of gain and greed — knowing the uselessness of hoarded gold — of honor bought from those who charge the usury of self-respect — of power that only bends a coward’s knees and forces from the lips of fear the lies of praise. Knowing at last the unstudied gesture of esteem, the reverent eyes made rich with honest thought, and holding high above all other things — high as hope’s great throbbing star above the darkness of the dead — the love of wife and child and friend.
Then locks of gray, and growing love of other days and half- remembered things — then holding withered hands of those who first held his, while over dim and loving eyes death softly presses down the lids of rest.
And so, locking in marriage vows his children’s hands and crossing others on the breasts of peace, with daughters’ babes upon his knees, the white hair mingling with the gold, he journeys on from day to day to that horizon where the dusk is waiting for the night. — At last, sitting by the holy hearth of home as evening’s embers change from red to gray, he falls asleep within the arms of her he worshiped and adored, feeling upon his pallid lips love’s last and holiest kiss.