Optimus by Adelaide Anne Procter

There is a deep and subtle snare
Whose sure temptation hardly fails,
Which, just because it looks so fair,
Only a noble heart assails.

So all the more we need be strong
Against this false and seeming Right;
Which none the less is deadly wrong,
Because it glitters clothed in light.

When duties unfulfilled remain,
Or noble works are left unplanned,
Or when great deeds cry out in vain
On coward heart and trembling hand,–

Then will a seeming Angel speak:–
“The hours are fleeting–great the need–
If thou art strong and others weak,
Thine be the effort and the deed.

“Deaf are their ears who ought to hear;
Idle their hands, and dull their soul;
While sloth, or ignorance, or fear,
Fetters them with a blind control.

“Sort thou the tangled web aright;
Take thou the toil–take thou the pain:
For fear the hour begin its flight,
While Right and Duty plead in vain.”

And now it is I bid thee pause,
Nor let this Tempter bend thy will:
There are diviner, truer laws
That teach a nobler lesson still.

Learn that each duty makes its claim
Upon one soul: not each on all.
How, if God speaks thy Brother’s name,
Dare thou make answer to the call?

The greater peril in the strife,
The less this evil should be done;
For as in battle, so in life,
Danger and honour still are one.

Arouse him then:- this is thy part:
Show him the claim; point out the need;
And nerve his arm, and cheer his heart;
Then stand aside, and say “God speed!”

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Smooth thou his path ere it is trod;
Burnish the arms that he must wield;
And pray, with all thy strength, that God
May crown him Victor of the field.

And then, I think, thy soul shall feel
A nobler thrill of true content,
Than if presumptuous, eager zeal
Had seized a crown for others meant.

And even that very deed shall shine
In mystic sense, divine and true,
More wholly and more purely thine–
Because it is another’s too.

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