Poems, now first collected/Fin de Siècle
FIN DE SlÈCLE
Now making exit to the outer vast
Our century speeds, and shall retain no more
Its perihelion splendor, save to cast
A search-light on the chartless course before.
I hear the murmur of our kind, whose eyes
Follow the spread of that phantasmal ray;
Who see as infants see, nor can surmise
Aright of what is near—what far away.
I hear the jest, the threnody, the low
Recount of dreams which down the years have fled,—
Of fair romance now shattered with love's bow,
Of legend brought to test, and passion dead.
Dark Science broods in Fancy's hermitage,
The rainbow fades,—and hushed, they say, is Song
With those high bards who lingering charmed the age
Ere one by one they joined the statued throng.
I hear the dirge for beauty sped, and faith
Astray in space and time's far archways lost,
Till Life itself becomes a tenuous wraith,
A wandering shade whom wandering shades accost.
Their light sad plaint I hear who thus divine
The future, counselling that all is done,—
Naught left for art's sweet touch—but to refine,
For courage—but to face the setting sun.
I hear, yet have no will to falter so.
We seek out matter's alchemy, and tame
Force to our needs, but what shall make us know
Whether the twain are parted, or the same?
The same! then conscious substance, fetterless
The more when most subdued to Will's control,
Free though in bonds, foredestined to progress,—
Ever, and ever still—the soul, the soul:
The unvexed spirit, to whose sure intent
All else is relative. Or large or small,
The Afrit, cloud or being, free or pent,
Enshrouds, impenetrates, and masters all.
No grain of sand too narrow to enfold
The spirit's incarnation; no vast land
And sea, but, readjusted to their mould,
It deems Atlantis scarce a grain of sand.
Time's intervals are ages; planets sleep
In death, or blaze in living light afar;
Thought answers thought; deep calleth unto deep
Alike within the globule and the star.
Ay, even the rock-bound globe, which still doth feign
Itself inanimate, itself shall seem
From yonder void a bead upon the train
Of heaven's warder rayed with beam on beam.
Life, when the harper tunes his shrillest string,
As to low thunder lends a finer ear
Unseen. Niagara's slow vibrating
Is but the treble of the greater sphere,
Whose lightest orchestras such movements play
As mock the forest's moan, the bass profound
Of surges that against deep barriers stay
Their might, in throes which shake the ancient ground.
Will, consciousness, the tenant lord of all,
Self-tenanted, is still the wrinkled wave
Which climbs a wave upon the clambering wall
Beyond, or in the hollow seeks a grave.
We time the ray, we pulsate with the fling
Of ether—feel the sure magnetic thrill
Make answer to each sombre vortex ring
Whirled with the whirling sun that binds us still;
That binds us, bound itself from girth to pole
By some unconquerable deathless force
Akin to this which thinks, acts, feels,—the soul
Of man, forever eddying like its source.
Passion and jest, the laugh and wail of earth,
High thought and speech, the rare considerings
Of beauty that to fairer art gives birth,
The winnowing of poesy's swift wings,—
These—though the hoary century inurn
Our great—no gathering mould of time shall clod:
They bide their hour, they pass but to return
With men, as now, the progeny of God.