Frederick George Scott

COLLECTED POEMS


 

A Dream of the Prehistoric



Naked and shaggy, they herded at eve by the sound of the seas,
    When the sky and the ocean were red as with blood from the         battles of God,
And the wind like a monster sped forth with its feet on the rocks         and the trees,
    And the sands of the desert blew over the wastes of the         drought-smitten sod.

Here, mad with the torments of hunger, despairing they sank to

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        their rest,
    Some crouching alone in their anguish, some gathered in         groups on the beach;
And with tears almost human the mother looked down at the babe         on her breast,
    And her pain was the germ of our love, and her cry was the root         of our speech.

Then a cloud from the sunset arose, like a cormorant gorged with         its prey,
    And extended its wings on the sky till it smothered the stars in
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        its gloom.
And ever the famine-worn faces were wet with the wind-carried         spray,
    And dimly the voice of the deep to their ears was a portent of         doom.

And the dawn that rose up on the morrow, apparelled in gold like         a priest,
    Through the smoke of the incense of morning, looked down on         a vision of death;
For the vultures were gathered together and circled with joy to
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        their feast
    On hearts that had ceased from their sorrow, and lips that         yielded their breath. [Page 34]

Then the ages went by like a dream, and the shore-line emerged         from the deep,
    And the stars as they watched through the years saw a change         on the face of the earth;
For over the blanket of sand that had covered the dead in their         sleep
    Great forests grew up with their green, and the sources of
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        rivers had birth.

And here in the after-times man, the white-faced and
        smooth-handed, came by,
    And he built him a city to dwell in and temples of prayer to his         God;
He filled it with music and beauty, his spirit aspired to the sky,
    While the dead by whose pain it was fashioned lay under the         ground that he trod.

He wrenched from great Nature her secrets, the stars in their
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        courses he named,
    He weighed them and measured their orbits; he harnessed the         horses of steam;
He captured the lightnings of heaven, the waves of the ocean he         tamed,—
    And ever the wonder amazed him as one that awakes from a         dream.

But under the streets and the markets, the banks and the temples         of prayer,
    Where humanity laboured and plotted, or loved with an instinct

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        divine,
Deep down in the silence and gloom of the earth that had         shrouded them there,
    Were the fossil remains of a skull and the bones of what once         was a spine. [Page 35]

Enfolded in darkness for ever, untouched by the changes above,
    And mingled as clay with the clay which the hands of the ages         had brought,
Were the hearts in whose furnace of anguish was smelted the
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        gold of our love,
    And the brains from whose twilight of instinct has risen the         dawn of our thought.

But the law, that was victor of old with its heel on the neck of the         brute,
    Still tramples our hearts in the darkness, still grinds down our         face in the dust;
We are sown in corruption and anguish—whose fingers will         gather the fruit?
    Our life is but lent for a season—for whom do we hold it in
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        trust?

In the vault of the sky overhead, in the gulfs that lie under our feet,
    The wheels of the universe turn, and the laws of the universe         blend;
The pulse of our life is in tune with the rhythm of forces that beat
    In the surf of the furthest star’s sea and are spent and         regathered to spend.

Yet we trust in the will of the Being whose fingers have spangled
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        the night
    With the dust of a myriad worlds, and who speaks in the         thunders of space;
Though we see not the start or the finish, though vainly we cry for         the light,
    Let us mount in the glory of manhood and meet the God-Man         face to face. [Page 36]