My Heritage

by Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken

"My heritage!" It is to live within
The marts of Pleasure and of Gain, yet be
No willing worshiper at either shrine;
To think, and speak, and act, not for my pleasure,
But others'. The veriest slave of time
And circumstances. Fortune's toy!
To hear of fraud, injustice, and oppression,
And feel who is the unshielded victim.
Cold friends and causeless foes!
Proud thoughts that rise to fall.
Bright stars that set in seas of blood;
Affections, which are passions, lava-like
Destroying what they rest upon. Love's
Fond and fervid tide preparing icebergs
That fragile bark, this loving human heart.
O'ermastering Pride!
Ruler of the Soul!
Life, with all its changes, cannot bow ye.
Soul-subduing Poverty!
That lays his iron, cold grasp upon the high
Free spirit: strength, sorrow-born, that bends
But breaks not in his clasp-all, all
These are "my heritage!"
And mine to know a reckless human love, all passion and intensity, and see a mist come o'er the scene, a dimness steal o'er the soul!
Mine to dream of joy and wake to wretchedness!
Mine to stand on the brink of life
One little moment where the fresh'ning breeze
Steals o'er the languid lip and brow, telling
Of forest leaf, and ocean wave, and happy
Homes, and cheerful toil; and bringing gently
To this wearied heart its long-forgotten
Dreams of gladness.
But turning the fevered cheek to meet the soft kiss of the winds, my eyes look to the sky, where I send up my soul in thanks. The sky is clouded-no stars-no music -the heavens are hushed.
My poor soul comes back to me, weary and disappointed.
The very breath of heaven, that comes to all, comes not to me.
Bound in iron gyves of unremitting toil, my vital air is wretchedness-what need I any other?
"My heritage!" The shrouded eye, the trampled leaf, wind-driven and soiled with dust-these tell the tale.
Mine to watch
The glorious light of intellect
Burn dimly, and expire; and mark the soul,
Though born in Heaven, pause in its high career,
Wave in its course, and fall to grovel in
The darkness of earth's contamination, till
Even Death shall scorn to give a thing
o low his welcome greeting!
Who would be that pale,
Blue mist, that hangs so low in air, like Hope
That has abandoned earth, yet reacheth
Not the stars in their proud homes?
A dying eagle, striving to reach the sun?
A little child talking to the gay clouds as they flaunt past in their purple and crimson robes?
A timid little flower singing to the grand old trees?
Foolish waves, leaping up and trying to kiss the moon?
A little bird mocking the stars?
Yet this is what men call Genius.

Last updated July 05, 2015