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!