“How shall I a habit break?”
As you did that habit make.
As you gathered, you must lose;
As you yielded, now refuse.
Thread by thread the strands we twist
Till they bind us neck and wrist;
Thread by thread the patient hand
Must untwine ere free we stand.
As we builded, stone by stone,
We must toil unhelped, alone,
Till the wall is overthrown.
But remember, as we try,
Lighter every test goes by;
Wading in, the stream grows deep
Toward the centre’s downward sweep.
Backward turn, each step ashore
Shallower is than that before.
Ah! The precious years we waste
Levelling what we raised in haste;
Doing what must be undone
Ere content or love be won!
First across the gulf we cast
Kite-borne threads, till lines are passed,
And habit builds the bridge at last!
John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890)