Beyond the requiems



Not in cataclysmal chaos, earthquake, fire, or flood, or blast,

Waits the world to hear the summons calling her to death at last.

Oft she hears a muttered menace, sees the ghastly lightnings gleam.

And the slumbering volcano vomit forth its lethal stream;

Oft she sees the wind-whipped waters leaping to the sullen skies,

And the foaming tidal terror in its deadly might arise;

But still deaf to all the dirges that have rolled above her dead.

And the songs that stir the living, she has ever onward sped,

As when first, a vagrant vapor, thrown from off the glowing breast

Of her mighty parent planet, up the shining path she pressed,

Lifeless, nebulous, and naked, save the vesture that was drawn

'Round her like a misty mantle, as she speeded to the dawn.

Who can guess the force that flung her out upon the star-strewn deep

Clasped her cloudy cincture 'round her, taught her how her course to keep

Through the vast uncharted regions, orbed her, shaped her, 'round her flung

Icy bands and frozen fetters that for aeons to her clung?

Long she drifted through the darkness, but at last the Word was heard,

And the cold, insensate sleeper to the waken-ing message stirred;

Felt the quickening breath that melted frozen field and moor and main,

 Drank the draught of saving sunlight, lost the winter-woven chain;

Grew in grandeur and in beauty, soaring to the noonday height,

Till the mighty Hand that hurled her out upon the cosmic night

Draws her back to death and darkness, shrouds her in her ice once more.

Stripped of all her garnered glory, all her Science, Song, and Lore.

There shall be no eye to see it. Life shall long have left the earth.

When she reels, a dying planet, to the breast that gave her birth.

All our knowledge is as nothing; clear-eyed Reason stands aghast,

For she sees the light that led us through the dark and distant past

Lost within the larger lustre Science sheds upon Earth's doom,

Is it better than the glow-worm that we followed in the gloom?

While Earth speeds to where unnumbered sister stars are frozen spheres,

Faith, before her falling altars, lifts her fearless face and hears

Every cherished creed derided, but still mumbles to her beads,

Dreaming that beyond the requiems deathless life to death succeeds.

Hope's pale star still smiles to soothe us, distant, indistinct, and cold.

As the primal moth beheld it, do we now its beams behold?

Are we nearer than the nascent life that slumbered in the slime.

When the protoplasmic moner scanned the steeps that it must climb?

Or the microcosmic atom, ere its fetters left it free?

Or the blind bathybius sleeping at the bottom of the sea?

Yea, the germ, primordial, potent, saw the goal that it must gain,

Found a hovel in man's body, built a palace in his brain.

And the selfsame seeds that wakened with it in Earth's virgin womb

Fill the fields with fragrant blossoms, or in poisoned petals bloom;

Make the wilderness grow vocal with the voice of bird and brute,

Send the great Sequoia skyward, gnaw in cankers at its root;

Never swerving from the settled purpose of the primal plan.

Save when planted in the passions and the burning brain of man;

There, oft glorious, often ghastly, oft degraded, oft divine.

Sometimes soaring to the stars, and sometimes wallowing with the swine;

Always out of tune with Nature; is the human brute the best,

Fated to the thralling thirst that burns forever in his breast.

Which hath ever urged us onward o'er Life's sterile sands, till we,

Rich in knowledge, rich in wisdom, panting forward, ever see

Silent and untrodden regions, over which the mirage beams.

But its tempting trees and waters murmur only in our dreams?

They have murmured unto myriads and beguiled them in the past,

They will call through coming ages, long as life on earth shall last,

When she hurries through the spaces on to where the peril hides,

As some bark on her own bosom sails through tranquil tropic tides,

Freighted full with costly treasures, till some stealthy stream or breeze

Woos her from the summer waters into dark and winter seas,

Where the icy currents clasp her, and the frozen vapors turn

Into cerements of silver, shrouding her from stem to stern.

Galley slaves were ne'er chained closer than her captive crew, whose doom

Is to drift to death through darkness, fettered to their floating tomb;

Crouching in the cold and shrinking from their dreaded end they gaze

On ffome spectre sail that mocks them as it passes in the haze.

So the life that lingers latest on this planet still will yearn

For the peace the world denies it, yea, though it again return

To the lowest type that sheltered in its breast Hope's latent spark.

And then fanned it to the fatuous flame that lures us through the dark.

All our philosophic pedants, all our sons of Science know

Not a whit more than that dullard dreamed unnumbered years ago,

As to where the spirit wanders when the body sinks in death,

For beyond the grave's black portals never man has breathed one breath.

We have probed the past and hunted in its deepest, darkest cells,

But the secret still eludes us, never by one whisper tells

Where Life felt its first faint tremor, for it was not born of naught,

Never seed spontaneous blossoms till the quickening breath be brought.

As we know not the beginning, so we may not know the end,

But as life from life first started, back, through death, to life 'twill wend.

Now and then some guide arises who would turn us from our path

With sweet promises that please us, or with threats of future wrath.

We have listened to His lessons, heard the Nazarene's behest,

"Follow Me, my way-worn children, I alone can give ye rest."

We have wondered as we hearkened unto Buddha's pleading voice.

If to find the peace men long for, they could make a wiser choice.

We have seen the swarthy Arab step athwart our path and say,

"Ye shall drink the living waters, if my precepts ye obey."

We have searched the stars above us for the secret, but no beam

Lights our darkened path to guide us to the goal of which we dream.

Little hope or help is hidden in the garnersof the past,

All its poets, priests, and sages, all the wisdom which they massed,

AH its fables, faiths, and fictions, all its temples, triumphs, tomes

Tell us nothing of the region where the fleshfreed spirit roams.