That melancholy phrase “It might have been,”
However sad, doth in its heart enfold
A hidden germ of promise! for I hold
WHATEVER MIGHT HAVE BEEN SHALL BE.
Some other realm and life, the soul must win
The goal that erst was possible. But cold
And cruel as the sound of frozen mould
Dropped on a coffin, are the words “Has been.”
“She has been beautiful”–“he has been great,”
“Rome has been powerful,” we sigh and say.
It is the pitying crust we toss decay,
The dirge we breathe o’er some degenerate state,
An epitaph for fame’s unburied dead.
God pity those who live to hear it said!