Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Sanyassi

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Philip Gilbert Hamerton 1834–94

The Sanyassi

“I HAVE subdued at last the will to live,

Expelling nature from my weary heart;

And now my life, so calm, contemplative,

No longer selfish, freely may depart.

The vital flame is burning less and less;

And memory fuses to forgetfulness.

“Sometimes I gaze on vacancy so long

That all my brain grows vacant, and I feel

That wondrous influence which doth make me strong

In resolution and unworldly zeal,

Until, abstracted from all time and sense,

I sink into eternal indolence.

“And now I feel my inward life grow still,

A being by itself, which fondly clings

To consciousness which I can never kill,

Yet is abstracted from all outward things,

And slumbers often, and is overgrown;

The sense of self increases when alone.

“I have subdued the will, but gain’d the power

To dwell among the denizens of earth;

I spread my spirit over tree and flower,

And human hearts, and things of meaner birth;

And thinking thus to give my soul away,

I found it grew more conscious every day.

“The simple crowds who hourly pass me by,

I think have lately grown afraid of me;

There is some virtue in this sunken eye,

For sometimes in my dreams I faintly see

The workings of the spirit in the brain,

And living floods that gush in every vein.

“Now, as I am weary of this vain endeavor

To lift my spirit to eternal sleep;

I seek the marble stairs, the sacred river,

The liquid graves below, where, calm and deep,

Beneath where that bright, silent water flows,

Stretch wide the regions of divine repose.”

With thoughts like these the Indian suicide

Dragg’d forth his stiffen’d limbs from his old lair;

He had no garment on his shrivell’d hide,

He shunn’d the grove, and sought the solar glare,

He never look’d aside, and his dead march

Had for its goal a gate of one proud arch.

It rose in sculptur’d splendor on the view

From the surrounding foliage of dark green,

Whose masses of broad shadow did subdue

Its prominent light. The blue sky shone between.

A crowd was on the river’s sacred marge,

And on the Ganges many a gaudy barge.

Down to that river he descended now;

And as he press’d the last steps of the stair,

A glance of pleasure from beneath his brow

Fell on two jars of porous earthenware.

He seiz’d them with his feeble hands, and tied

One of them to his girdle on each side,

And floated slowly from the crowded Ghaut;

And since no friendly hand was stretch’d to save,

Found in those quiet waters what he sought—

A long rest and an honorable grave.

His faith was righteous, and his ending blest;

And now his soul enjoys eternal rest.