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George Eliot

The Choir Invisible

Oh, may I join the choir invisible

Of those immortal dead who live again

In minds made better by their presence; live

In pulses stirred to generosity,

In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn

For miserable aims that end with self,

In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,

And with their mild persistence urge man's search

To vaster issues. So to live is heaven:

To make undying music in the world,

Breathing as beauteous order that controls

With growing sway the growing life of man.

So we inherit that sweet purity

For which we struggled, failed, and agonized

With widening retrospect that bred despair.

Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,

A vicious parent shaming still its child,

Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolved;

Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies,

Die in the large and charitable air.

And all our rarer, better, truer self,

That sobbed religiously in yearning song,

That watched to ease the burden of the world,

Laboriously tracing what must be,

And what may yet be better,—saw within

A worthier image for the sanctuary,

And shaped it forth before the multitude,

Divinely human, raising worship so

To higher reverence more mixed with love,—

That better self shall live till human Time

Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky

Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb

Unread forever. This is life to come,—

Which martyred men have made more glorious

For us who strive to follow. May I reach

That purest heaven,—be to other souls

The cup of strength in some great agony,

Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,

Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,

Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,

And in diffusion ever more intense!

So shall I join the choir invisible

Whose music is the gladness of the world.