Poems: Old and New

by Frederick George Scott




THE ocean beats its noontide harmonies
Upon the sunlit lines of cragged coast,
And a wild rhythm pulses through my brain
With pauses and responsive melodies;
And sky and ocean, air and day and night
Topple and reel upon my burning blood,
Run to and fro, whirl round and round and round,
Till, lo! the cosmic madness breathes a strain
Of perfect music through the universe.
I hear it with my ears, eyes, hands and feet;
I drink it with my breath; my skin sucks in,
At every fevered pore, fine threads of sound,
Which plunge vibrations of the wind-swept harp
Of earth and heaven deep into my soul,
Till each sense quickens with a freshened life,
And thoughts arise which bring me ease from pain. [Page 71]

O peace, sweet peace! I melt and ebb away;
On softened rocks outstretch relaxèd limbs,
With half-shut eyes deliciously enthralled.
What passion! what delight, what ecstasies!

Joy fills my veins with rivers of excess;
I rave, I quiver, as with languid eyes
I see the hot air dance upon the rocks,
And sky, sea, headlands blend in murmurous haze.

Now grander, with the organ’s bass that drives

The under-world in darkness through despair
Of any day-dawn on its inky skies,
The music rolls around me, and above
From shattered cliffs, from booming caverns’ mouths,
Pierced by the arrow-screams of startled gulls.
Now strength, subdued, but waxing more and more,
Reanimates my limbs; I feel my power
Full as the flooding ocean, or the force
Which grinds the glaciers on their boulder feet.
My hands could pluck up mountains by the roots,
My arm could hurl back ocean from the shore
To wallow in his frothy bed. What hate! what scorn!
What limitless imaginations stretch [Page 72]
And burst my mind immense! I stand apart;
I am alone, all-glorious, supreme.
My huge form like a shadow sits and broods
Upon the globe, gigantic, like the shade
Eclipsing moons. With bowed head on my hand
In gloom excessive, now, behold, I see
Beneath my feet the stream of human life,
The sad procession of humanity.

They come, the sons of Hellas, beautiful,
Swift-minded, lithe, with luscious, laughing lips
That suck delight from every tree of life;
Born of the sunshine, winds, and sounding sea.

They pass, and, lo, a mightier nation moves
In stern battalions, trampling forests down,
Cleaving the mountains, paving desert lands
With bones that e’en when bleaching face the foe,
Welding soft outskirt nations into iron–
An iron hand to grasp and hold the world!

Now dust, like smoke, from Asia’s central steppes,
Darkens the rigid white of mountain peaks,
And the plains bristle with the Tartar hordes,
Suckled of mares, flat-faced, implacable, [Page 73]

Deadly in war, revengeful, treacherous,
Brown as the craggy glens of Caucasus.
They pass, and nations pass, and like a dream
A throne emerges from the western sea,
The latest empire of a dying world.
E’en as I look its splendour melts away,
And round me, gathering volume, music rolls,
Till sinews crack and eyes are blind with power;
Till struggles, battles mixed with smoke and blood,
Men, nations, life and death, and desolate cries,
Melt in the inner pulses in my ears,
And a wild tempest blows the daylight out.

And now I am alone beneath the stars,
Alone, in infinite silence. Am I God,
That I am so supreme? Whence is this power?

Cannot my will repeople these waste lands?
I cry aloud. The vault of space resounds,
And hollow-sounding echoes, from the stars
Rebounding, shake the earth and crinkle up
The sea in million furrows. Lo, the stars
Now fade, the sun arises, it is day—
Half day, half night; the sun has lost his strength, [Page 74]
I am his equal, nay, I am his king!
I rise and move across the earth, the seas
Have vanished, and I tread their empty beds,
And crush down continents of powdered bones.

O great light, late supreme, what need of thee?
For all are dead, men, nations, life and death,
And God is dead, and here alone am I—
I, with strong hands to pluck thee from thy course,

Boundless in passion, will, omnipotent.
The impulses concentre in my heart
Which erstwhile shook the universe. O Sun,
Acknowledge now thy king, put down thy head
Beneath my feet, and lift me higher still
To regions that out-top the adoring spheres,
And bask in primal thought, too vast to shape
Into similitude of earthly things.

I would have all, know all. I thirst and pant
And hunger for the universe. Now from the earth

Beneath thy rays, O Sun, the steams arise,
Sheeting the world’s dead face in film of cloud,
The voices of the dead. Peace, let me be. [Page 75]
Go on thy way, spent power, leave me here
To reign in silence, rave and scorn and hate,
To glory in my strength, tear down the skies,
Trample the crumbling mountains under foot,
Laugh at the tingling stars, burn with desire
Unconquerable, till the universe
Is shattered at the core, its splinters flung
By force centrifugal beyond the light,
Until the spent stars from their orbits reel,
And, hissing down the flaming steeps of space,
With voice of fire proclaim me God alone. [Page 76]