The Unnamed Lake and Other Poems

by Frederick George Scott


 

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 draught-
 
  smitten sod.  

Here, mad with the torments of hunger, despairing they sank to
 
  their rest,
5
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
 
  at 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 its
 
  gloom,
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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, appareled 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
15
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 shoreline 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 rivers
 
  had birth.
20

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 form great Nature her secrets, the stars in their
 
  courses he named;
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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
 
  divine,
30
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.  

Enfolded in darkness forever, untouched by the charges 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,
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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 trust?
40

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
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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.