TIME is a thief who leaves his tools behind him;
He comes by night, he vanishes at dawn;
We track his footsteps, but we never find him
Strong locks are broken, massive bolts are drawn,
And all around are left the bars and borers,
The splitting wedges and the prying keys,
Such aids as serve the soft-shod vault-explorers
To crack, wrench open, rifle as they please.
Ah, these are tools which Heaven in mercy lends us
When gathering rust has clenched our shackles fast,
Time is the angel-thief that Nature sends us
To break the cramping fetters of our past.
Mourn as we may for treasures he has taken,
Poor as we feel of hoarded wealth bereft,
More precious are those implements forsaken,
Found in the wreck his ruthless hands have left.
Some lever that a casket’s hinge has broken
Pries off a bolt, and lo! our souls are free;
Each year some Open Sesame is spoken,
And every decade drops its master-key.
So as from year to year we count our treasure,
Our loss seems less, and larger look our gains;
Time’s wrongs repaid in more than even measure,–
We lose our jewels, but we break our chains.