The Man I Might Have Been

By George Sterling

Now, ere the grey and ghastly dawn
    Restore the heartening sun,
And Conscience, at his light withdrawn,
    Behold her toil undone,
With more than day's remorseful pow'r,
    To grimmest ghosts akin,
He comes to haunt a candid hour—
    The man I might have been.

Clear-visioned with betraying night,
    I count his merits o'er.
And get no comfort from the sight,
    Nor any cure therefor.
I'd mourn my desecrated years
    (His maimed and sorry twin),
But well he knows my makeshift tears—
    The man I might have been.

Decisively his looks declare
    The heart's divine success;
He held no parley with despair,
    Nor pact with wantonness;
He wanders with accustomed feet
    The heights I dreamt to win;
A sleepless hour, he finds it sweet—
    The man I might have been.

His station in the ranks of good
    I view with joyless eyes;
His victories o'er self withstood
    Denying I surmise.
Tho' reason slay him at a glance,
    The mirth of Death agrin
Defines him master of mischance—
    The man I might have been.

Whenas I ponder in my pride
    (An after-dream of day)
If thus the wilful gods deride
    My will to scorn the clay,
He comes, where jealous of their youth
    I nurse a starveling sin,
To sting me with the acrid truth—
    The man I might have been.

Tho' half I deem my gentle friends
    Would love him less than me,
No less the daunting wraith attends
    The dark's sincerity.
O Fates that held us at your choice,
    How strange a web ye spin I
Why chose ye not with equal voice
    The man I might have been.

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