L’Homme de l’Ennui

Forlornly I wander, forlornly I sigh,
And droop my head sadly, I cannot tell why:
When the first breeze of morning blows fresh in my face,
As the wild-waving walks of our woodlands I trace,
Reviv’d for the moment I look all around,
But my eyes soon grow languid, and fix on the ground.I have yet no misfortune to rob me of rest,
No love discomposes the peace of my breast;
Ambition ne’er enter’d the verge of my thought,
Nor by honours, by wealth, nor by power am I caught;
Those phantoms of folly disturb not my ease,
Yet Time is a tortoise, and Life a disease.

With the blessings of youth and of health on my side,
A temper untainted by envy or pride;
No guilt to corrode, and no foes to molest;
There are many who tell me my station is blest.
This I cannot dispute; yet without knowing why —
I feel that my bosom is big with a sigh.

Oh! why do I see that all knowledge is vain;
That Science finds Error still keep in her train;
That Imposture or Darkness, with Doubt and Surmise,
Will mislead, will perplex, and then baffle the wise,
Who often, when labours have shorten’d their span,
Declare — not to know — is the province of man?

In life, as in learning, our views are confin’d,
Our discernment too weak to discover the mind,
Which, subdued and irresolute, keeps out of sight;
Or if, for a moment, her presence delight,
Our air is too gross for the stranger to stay;
And, back to her prison she hurries away!

If my own narrow precincts I seek to explore,
My wishes how vain, my attainments how poor!
Tenacious of virtue, with caution I move;
I correct, and I wrestle, but cannot approve;
Till, bewilder’d and faint, I would yield up the rein,
But I dare not in peace with my errors remain!

With zeal all awake in the cause of a friend,
With warmth unrepress’d by my fear to offend,
With sympathy active in hope or distress,
How keen and how anxious I cannot express,
I shrink, lest an eye should my feelings behold,
And my heart seems insensible, selfish and cold.

I strive to be gay, but my efforts are weak,
And, sick of existence, for pleasure I seek;
I mix with the empty, the loud, and the vain,
Partake of their folly, and double my pain.
In others I meet with depression and strife;
Oh! where shall I seek for the music of life?

Henry, on the Departure of His Wife from Calcutta