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Songs of the Slav/The Spiral, or On the Decline of a Century

< Songs of the Slav







A spiral is a regular endless curve beginning at the center and running in diverging rings continually in a circle so that the distance of a point on any one revolution from the second is as great as the second from the third and so on.—A Definition of a Spiral.


It was ages ago.
'Twas the moment perhaps
That Darwin describes:
White was the beast
That suddenly raised
Her head on high,
Stood firm upon
Her hind feet
Gazed up above
To the shining ball
In its vault of blue,
Gazed all around
On luxuriant earth,
On the fruits thereof
And all its creatures.
A mighty feeling
Of dominion and strength
Stirred her to the depths.

And from her breast
First welled the joyous,
Broad, powerful,
Victorious: I,
Which seemed to her
The final center
Of things all around.—
And from the white beast
At that time arose man.

And life began.

The embittered power
Of afflictions and pains
(Which unbeknown
Each "I" enclosed
As a soul within)
Drove them on and on.
Life fled before it
As flees the hare
From the light weasel
Which sits at its throat.
From a small point
Life flew in a curve
Of broad expanse.
The curve unwinds,
Unwinds and unwinds
In a whirling spiral
Along which man rushes,
Impelled by pain
And strengthened by hope
Of peace and brighter aims.

And the spiral spreads
Through space without bounds,
Without depth and height,
Without breadth and length,
On into the unknown.

The embittered power
Of afflictions and pains
Impels it onward.
It crumbled souls,
Created gods,
Crushed masses,
Established kings,
Impressed the steel
Into the hands of man
Which he in turn
Plunged into himself;
Led spirits into
Sciences' labyrinth
And to streams of art,
But nowhere to fortune.

Mankind rushes along
The whirling spiral
Through space without bounds,
Without depth and height,
Without breadth and length,
On into the unknown.

Counseling gods,
That gave not fortune,
Overturned thrones,
That gave not fortune,

Blood that was shed
And brought not fortune,
Sciences and arts
Where man found not fortune,
All lies casts aside
Along life's frightful way.

A monster huge
Of bluish color,
And called the past,
Creeps aft mankind,
Devours it all
With mighty jaws,
And, insatiable,
Grows day by day.

Mankind rushes on
And ever onward.
And again new gods,
And new kings,
And new battles,
And new arts,
And new sciences,—
And again all lies
Behind him far
In the spiral's path
As the monsters prey.

And the spiral spreads and spreads
Through endless space.
And wretched mankind
Thus chases fortune.
Joyful cries at times

Sound from a hundred throats,
And strained nerves
Tremble with bliss.
Wretched mankind!
Some sort of phantom,
Fara morgana,
Glittered somewhere for thee
In the boundless desert!

Wretched mankind!
The following hour
Again art thou further on,
Ahasuerus of thy fable,
In thy flight!
And the deceitful phantom
Will find itself in the jaws
Of the bluish past,
As all things else!

And the spiral spreads and spreads.
The nineteenth circle,
Which we call enlightened,
Runs into the twentieth.
'Tis an age of steam,
Chemistry and physics,
And a god grown old,
And several kings,
And rows of fine battles,
And full of knowledge,
And nerves unstrung,
And of vain hopes,

And full of misfortune
As all the rest.

The embittered power
0f afflictions and pains
Drives us from it
Onward and onward
Along the whirling spiral.

That bluish past
With gigantic jaws,
With a great belly,
Follows in our footsteps.
It will at least find
A profitable spoil.