Poems: Old and New

by Frederick George Scott




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

         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. [Page 31]

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
         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
         their feast  
   On hearts that had ceased from their sorrow, and lips that had          yielded their breath.

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; [Page 32]
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 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

         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. [Page 33]

But under the streets and the markets, the banks and the temples          of prayer,
   Where humanity laboured and plotted, or loved with an instinct
Deep down in the silence and gloom of the earth that had          shrouded them there,
   Where the fossil remains of a skull and the bones of what once          was a spine.

Enfolded in darkness forever, 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
         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; [Page 34]
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 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

         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 35]