«If man is
a garment worn by the soul,
what is the soul—wilt thou not say—of which I am the garment?»
THE World is but a Stage, the
stage of man;
On which the soul impersonates
Hero, or slave, as best it can.
As Actor in the Play (which
For the pastime of Eternity He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold),
Sometime as King he struts across the boards,
Sometime as beggar, lowly and forlorn;
Again, as lover, priest or serf,
Differing only in the garment worn.
At fall of curtain—the same
soul he was before the play began,
Save his experience, and the skill
With which as player he did demonstrate the Author's will.
And if in Drama, Tragedy, or
His lot it be to play as thief or rogue?
'Tis but another rôle
In the great Author's Play,
And He, beneath it, still unsullied Soul.
And when, the robes of saint or
sinner laid aside,
He seeks the place that is his own,
After each part that he has played,
He lives the life that he himself has made,
The clothes he wore as servitor
If they were beautiful, and he had kept them clean,
Another then may use them in the Play,
Long after he has had his day.
The Play the Author wrote, will
Be played: the robes designed for it can still be worn.
The wearers only will have changed;
Although to other players of the game
The Actors still may seem the same.
But if the robes were badly
used, or marred,
Then on the rubbish heap they may be cast as waste;
Not to be lost—they will form parts of many things:
Small parts, perhaps, of other robes
Perchance of paper used by scribe or Press,
But never can again as whole be Actor's dress.
In Time's great revolutions all
Again into the void from which they came.
But then the Play will cease ; the Author rest a span,
Until another play He stages for the soul of man.
Yet still the Truth in paradox
The Author is Himself the players, and the play,
The stage, the garments,
The failure and the skill:
And He the souls who demonstrate His will.