My First is singular at best:
      More plural is my Second:
My Third is far the pluralest—
So plural-plural, I protest
      It scarcely can be reckoned!

My First is followed by a bird:
      My Second by believers
In magic art: my simple Third
Follows, too often, hopes absurd
      And plausible deceivers.

My First to get at wisdom tries—
      A failure melancholy!
My Second men revered as wise:
My Third from heights of wisdom flies
      To depths of frantic folly.

My First is ageing day by day:
      My Second’s age is ended:
My Third enjoys an age, they say,
That never seems to fade away,
      Through centuries extended.

My Whole?  I need a poet’s pen
      To paint her myriad phases:
The monarch, and the slave, of men—
A mountain-summit, and a den
      Of dark and deadly mazes—

A flashing light—a fleeting shade—
      Beginning, end, and middle
Of all that human art hath made
Or wit devised!  Go, seek her aid,
      If you would read my riddle!

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