Lake Lyrics and Other Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

ODE TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY


 

Dim dawn of a nobler future, late night of a holier past;
Twilight of truth’s torches wasted, bread on the waters long cast;
Time long weary of gleaning old husks from the fields that are bleak,
Age dead to the oracles uttered, and the droning of lips that still speak.
Age of little that’s earnest, age of nothing that’s strong,
5
Age of wills that are broken, true to no passion long;
With the dregs of a cup for a draught, and a feeble complaint for a song.
Small lakes where once was an ocean, little stars where once was a sun;
Wheels in confusion of wheels, where once the great circle was one.

What are our dreams of the future, what have we left of the past?

10
What are we dreaming or doing, how shall we meet the next blast?
Politics, politics, politics: ruin, confusion and rout,
In, chicanery, lying, model reformers when out.
Loud-mouthed babblings of honour, pratings of victories won,
Maggots that crawl in the foulness of a carcass out under the sun!
15
Modern civilization widening; what doth it mean?
Better a healthy barbarism, that this last age hath been;
With its social and moral lepers, crying; unclean! unclean!
Empires, monarchies, states; all are one of a kind;
Strife of atoms with atoms, blind ones leading the blind.
20
Little is anchored on justice, little is honest or wise;
Passions buffeting passions, ’till God shall open their eyes.
Each hath a grain of knowledge, each hath a spark of truth,
Hidden in dark and confusion, buried in ruin and ruth.

Parties and sects and parties; despots, the curse of the earth;

25
Chaining up knowledge and reason, crippling children at birth.
Wide is the wisdom of God, wide as the bounds of the world,
Would ye take it and hide it under a napkin furled.

Petty, weak dreams of an hour, puerile reforms of a week;
Are there not plans and plans outside the ends ye seek?

30
Ye, who seek to compass the deeds of all time in a day,
Ye, who trust in yourselves, scorning to wait or to pray;
Are there not suns and suns where yours are dimmed in the grey?
Ye who take one plot out of the gardens of God,
Hedge it about with a creed, and water and tend its sod.
35
Are there not flowers and flowers that blossom outside of your ken?
Are there not seeds wide sown thick as the thoughts of men?
Think not yours are all under the breadth of the blue,
There are flowers as fair just as holy of hue.