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A Year of Poetry – Day 181

O happier half of days decreed to me,
My early years, so soon you passed away:
Few were the flowers that blossomed on that tree,
And they, scarce budded, fell into decay.
Few were the rays of hope that I could see,
And storms would often rage in wild array;
Still, for my youth, dark though thy dawn may be,
My heart will ever cry, God be with thee!

Too soon the fruits of knowledge did I eat!
Where dripped their poison, faded all delight:
I saw how honesty and truth could meet
Among the human kind with scorn and spite.
I sought true love – an empty dream and fleet,
Which disappeared as dawn broke into light!
And wisdom, justice and the learned mind
Were dowerless maids – no suitors could they find.

I saw how those who are not loved by fate
Their ship in vain against the wind may steer;
The one who is not born to high estate
Shall see no Fortune at his cradle appear;
I saw how fame is purchased at the rate
Of current cash – no price too high, too dear;
I saw in glory’s and in honour’s seat
All that beguiles men’s minds with lies, deceit.

These sights and others uglier by far
Burned in my heart till cruelly it bled;
Yet thoughts like these the joys of youth will bar
And quickly drive them out of heart and head;
Fair cloud-born castles glimmer from afar,
Green lawns arise where desert places spread,
Hope kindles many a wanton, beckoning light,
To lure the young and tempt them in the night.

They know not of the sudden storm that blows,
Dispelling phantom shapes that cannot last,
And all too soon forget misfortune’s woes,
Forget the wounds once they are healed and past –
Until the changing years show how life flows
Into a vessel that is leaking fast.
Still, O my youth, dark though thy dawn may be,
My heart will ever cry, God be with thee!

— France Preseren, A Farewell to my Youth

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