The alchemist, uncertain, grinds his lead;
Around the room, alembics fizz, and bowls
Of baser matter bubble over coals
That steam the room and bead his scratchy head.
He thinks of wiser minds, and men long dead,
Of failed experiments, and thwarted goals:
If such a quest defeated those great souls,
Should he just strive for simpler aims instead?
Why seek for truth in this quixotic art?
Why chase eternities of gold? Why fret?
With all before discomfited, why start?
Maybe he’s mad – it’s vanity, but yet –
He knows, with romance in his shaded heart,
The merest gleam is worth the doubt and sweat.