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