Poems: Old and New

by Frederick George Scott


 

NATURA VICTRIX.


 

ON the crag I sat in wonder,
Stars above me, forests under;
   Through the valleys came and went
   Tempest forces never spent,
And the gorge sent up the thunder
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   Of the stream within it pent.

Round me with majestic bearing
Stood the giant mountains, wearing
   Helmets of eternal snows,
   Cleft by nature’s labour throes—

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Monster faces mutely staring
   Upward into God’s repose.

At my feet in desolation
Swayed the pines, a shadowy nation,
   Round the woodlake deep and dread,

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   Round the river glacier-fed, [Page 64]
Where a ghostly undulation
    Shakes its subterranean bed.

And I cried, “O wilderness!
Mountains! which the wind caresses,

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   In a savage love sublime,
    Through the bounds of space and time,
All your moods and deep distresses
   Roll around me like a chime!

“Lo, I hear the mighty chorus

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Of the elements that bore us
   Down the course of nature’s stream,
    Onward in a haunted dream
Towards the darkness, where before us
   Time and death forgotten seem!
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“Now behold the links of lightning,
Round the neck of storm-god tightening,
    Madden him with rage and shame
    Till he smites the earth with flame,
In the darkening and the brightening
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   Of the clouds on which he came! [Page 65]

“Nature! at whose will are driven
Tides of ocean, winds of heaven,
   Thou who rulest near and far
   Forces grappling sun and star,

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Is to thee the knowledge given
   Whence these came and what they are?

“Is thy calm the calm of knowing
Whence the force is, whither going?
   Is it but the blank despair

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   Of the wrecked, who does not care
Out at sea what wind is blowing
   To the death that waits him there?

“Mother Nature, stern aggressor,
Of thy child the mind-possessor,

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   Thou art in us like a flood,
   Welling through out thought and blood—
Force evolving great from lesser,
   As the blossom from the bud.

“Yea, I love thy fixed, enduring

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Times and seasons, life procuring [Page 66]
   From abysmal heart of thine;
    And my spirit would resign
All its dreams and hopes alluring
   With thy spirit to combine.
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“Would that I, amid the splendour
Of the thunder-blasts, could render
   Back the dismal dole of birth,
   Fusing soul-clouds in the girth
Of thy rock breasts, or the tender
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   Green of everlasting earth.

“Haply, when the scud was flying
And the lurid daylight dying
   Through the rain-smoke on the sea,
   Thoughtless, painless, one with thee,

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I, in perfect bondage lying,
   Should forever thus be free.

“Mighty spirits, who have striven
Up life’s ladder-rounds to heaven,
   Or ye freighted ones who fell

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   On the poppy slopes of hell, [Page 67]
When the soul was led or driven,
    Knew ye not who wrought the spell?

“Understood not each his brother
From the features of our mother

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   Stamped on every human face?
   Did not earth, man’s dwelling-place,
Draw ye to her as no other,
   With a stronger bond than grace?

“Tempest hands the forests rending,

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Placid stars the night attending,
   Mountains, storm-clouds, land and sea,
   Nature!—make me one with thee;
From my soul its pinions rending,
   Chain me to thy liberty.
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“Hark! the foot of death is nearing,
And my spirit aches with fearing,
   Hear me, mother, hear my cry,
    Merge me in the harmony
Of thy voice which stars are hearing
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Wonder-stricken in the sky. [Page 68]

“Mother, will no sorrow move thee?
Does the silence heartless prove thee?
   Thou who from the rocks and rain
   Mad’st this soul, take back again

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What thy fingers wrought to love thee
   Through the furnace of its pain.

“Giant boulders, roll beside me;
Tangled ferns, bow down and hide me,
   Hide me from the face of death;

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   Or, great Nature, on thy breath
Send some mighty words to guide me
    Till the demon vanisheth.”

Then, as sweet as organ playing,
Came a voice, my fears allaying,

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    From the mountains and the sea,
    “Wouldst thou, soul, be one with me,
In thy might the slayer slaying?
   Wrestle not with what must be.”

Heart and spirit in devotion,

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Vibrant with divine emotion, [Page 69]
    Bowed before that mighty sound,
   And amid the dark around
Quaffed the strength of land and ocean
    In a sacrament profound.
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Then I burst my bonds asunder,
And my voice rose in the thunder
   With a full and powerful breath,
   Strong for what great nature saith,
And I bade the stars in wonder
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   See me slay the slayer—death. [Page 70]