Eos: An Epic of the Dawn, and Other Poems

By Nicholas Flood Davin


 

EOS: AN EPIC OF THE DAWN.


 

Illusion makes the better part of life.
Happy self-conjurors, deceived, we win
Delight and ruled by fancy live in dreams.
The mood, the hour, the standpoint, rules the scene;
The past, the present, the to-be weave charms;
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White-flashing memory’s fleet footsteps fly,
And all the borders of her way are pied
With flowers full glad e’en when their roots touch quick
With pain. With tears upon his dimpled cheek
Forth steps the infant joy, and laughing, mocks
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At care. In time, smiles play upon the cheek
Of pale regret, who grows transformed, and stands
A pensive queen, more fair than boisterous mirth.
The present’s odorous with leaves of trees
Long dead, and dead defacing weeds and thorns,
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And past the cloud that glowered, the blast that smote,
And out from never to be trodden days
Hope smiles, and airs from dawns we’re never doomed
To see, come rich with fragrance, fresh with power,
Profuse of promises of golden days
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And join the necromancy of the past,
Mingling the magic which makes up our lives.

I had been musing how the goddess bright
Of morning red, at close of every night,
Announcing coming light of day to gods [Page 16]
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And mortals, drove her lambent car across
The sky, and how she stoop’d and pluck’d those flowers
Of men,—Orion, Cephalus, Tithonius—
Tithonius, who became a wrinkled shade,
So changed from him whose strength and beauty pierced
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The heart of Eos in its tender sawn
Of love.
             A sunny sky of blue arching
A plain in verdure drowned, and floating thick
Upon the emerald sea sweet wild flowers gay;
Their stately queen the light-pink prairie rose.
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The whirr of insects loud on every side,
And loud and clear the prairie lark, deep hid
In those vast fragrant meadows, sang; the creek
Sent thousand-voiced upon the sultry air
The bull-frog’s weary canticle. I slept
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And dreamt the goddess bent above me there
On that wide treeless plain, and made my heart
Distend with dumb, bewildering, dreadful joy;
Near mine the snowy forehead isled in gold,
Near mine the eyes of blue, ineffable, sweet,
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And on my mouth the dewy rose of hers.
She rose and bared her milk-white arm, and drew
Me near her; then there flash’d a blinding light;
Whirlwinds of flame swept o’er the grass; the plain
Was one vast fire from rim to rim; but on
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We went till distance made th’abounding blaze
Like glow of western clouds presaging storm,
When the broad sun in awful glory sets,
Then leaves great yellow fire-lit tracts behind,
Like fame of some portentous deed; the heart [Page 17]
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Is touched and no unpleasing sadness wraps
The soul.
             The sea soon lay beneath, with isles
Of vines and palms, tall cedars, citron groves,
Within an azure concave rimmed with light.
A rush of green-white wave and we were whelm’d
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In depths wherein whole navies might go down,
Nor leave a ripple on the placid sea.
Careless, I closed mine eyes to die, but she
Reached forth the delicate hand with tapering fingers,
White, rosy-tipp’d, and touched me. At that touch
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Strength came. I seemed to breathe my native air,
And she led on towards stately towers unique
In architecture and in ornament.
But when we neared the carven arch and door
She turned and said:—“To-morrow you shall ride
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With me,” and like a dream she went, and blank
And desolate, I knew not where to turn.

Far down where never sailors’ plummet reach’d,
Nor ever beam of piercing sunbeam stole,
Nor dream of faint forgotten sound e’er stirred,
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Nor ghost of earthly odours smote the sense,
Wall’d in with silent, fearful waves, its roof
Of night and pallid waning stars, upheld
By massy pillars quarried from the dark,
The home mysterious of the goddess stands;
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Its solemn spacious chambers carpeted
With dusk, and hung with swarthy tapestries;
Ebon the garniture; profuse on lounge
And litter lay the furs of animals [Page 18]
Extinct for centuries ere man emerged,
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Of which the rocks no hint to science give.
Along the halls and corridors obscure,
In many a dim recess, rose stately shapes
Of blackness. Fed from odorous flowers fresh culled
In gardens of Persephoné, the air
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Was sweet—a rich pervading fragrance pure,
And through the rayless splendours of these halls—
Led by what happy chance or gracious guide—
I groped and found where far within, in such
A room, so full of sleep-compelling airs,
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So beautiful, so stately-solemn, still,
As silence, weary of time’s fret and change
Might choose for an eternal sleep, lo! there
On couch dark as a piece of Erebus,
But soft as Summer cloud, cunning the frame,
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Made from the lethal bronze the Titan works
In thunder clouds, in dreamless slumber Eos
Lay. Ah! no darkness there! From white lithe limbs,
Full throat, curved shoulder, pure firm breast and waist
Which rose in beauty to the swelling hips,
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Light shone, and glory from her golden head!
Athwart those hips a vaporous veil, dim lace
Of magic woof, the work of hands divine
And made from mists of dawn was thrown, but fail’d
To hide large outlines fair, which dazzling glow’d
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As glows the sun thro’ half-enkindled clouds.
Like small snow mounds o’er which in threshing time
The farmer spills the yellow grain, which curves
Around the base, her eyelids white; her mouth,
Her ruddy cheeks glow’d like young roses red [Page 19]
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Above the lilies of her throat and breast,
Around, light, airy, fairy forms kept watch.
She moved and these took wing. She rose and stood
A vision fairer than e’er sculptor dream’d,
And like a cataract of fire and gold
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That down white rocks of Parian marble sweeps,
O’er shoulder, breast and flank her thick hair fell
And reached her pearly ankles pale. Her maids
Who seem’d compact of starlight, now return’d,
The bath prepared, and like to Artemis
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When by the hunter spied, but riper-warm
Her beauty, Titian’s to Correggio’s
Venus, or what the matron of some years
Of happy married life is to the girl
She was before love struck the fountains deep
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Of life and all the streams of tenderness
Set free, Eos stood while they poured the water
O’er her, parting the hair to let the wave
Reach the white back and lave the fruitful breast.
Upon her flesh the drops enamour’d stood,
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Trembled and rolled unwilling down; around
Her form a purple robe, diaphanous,
She flung, and passed into the hall where-through
Now gleam’d a light, clear, soft, diffused. Her face
Was full of youth and purpose, and she cast
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No glance at all aside, nor did she heed
The helpless pathos of those filmy hands
Tithonous held out pleading, nor dumb prayers
Regard. Before the high arched carven door
There rushed the blaze of golden car and steeds
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Of fire, with lightning shod, their eyes like pits [Page 20]
Of flame, and standing near, with harp in hand,
Spirits of beauty sang clear voiced and sweet:

CHORUS.

  Hail! day’s herald reappearing!
    Joy of earth! young earth’s adorning,
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  Wings out-spread and fast careering
    Down the gulfs of Chaos darkling,
        Soon Black Night will disappear;
    While her star above her sparkling,
Comes with shining robes the Morning,
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          Orange-tinted, purple-glowing,
        Samite skirts and freely flowing,
        Songs of birds, and saucy crowing
        Shrill of wakeful chanticleer.

Bounding rills down bowery highlands,
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      Flashing streams with streamlets flushing,
Lucid waves round flowery islands,
    In thy beams will soon be blushing,
And the lily’s pallid cheek will burn with thy dyes
    And the leaves and fields will twinkle
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      With the dews thy tears besprinkle,
        Tears from thine immortal eyes.

Where now darkness grimly gloometh,
    Soon leaf shadows will be swaying,
Over sunny banks where bloometh,
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          Drinking draughts of sunny air,
            Sweet as love and glad as day, [Page 21]
        Flowers too bright to know decaying,
            They are so immortal fair
            Though their doom be to decay.
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SEMICHORUS I.  

              Mount thy car!
            We come from far—
Come from watching fairies footing
    Steps fantastic in the moonlight,
        O’er enchanted lawns of green;
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  On the left white billows shooting,
    Whose spray showers of margarite
        Play o’er sheets of silver sheen:
    On the right a cedarn cover,
    Where coy Dian with her lover
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          Might have met and kissed unseen.
            Mount thy car!
        Fain would we be viewing
    Thy soft tears the earth bedewing,
        The meadows green and mountains,
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          The forest thick and fells,
        Leafy dells, gardened closes,
        Roses red, pink and pale,
    Towery hyacinth and jasmine and blue bells,
And ten thousand flowers unnamed which regale
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          With the odours they exhale,
    Drunk enraptured sense subduing
        Through the perfume laden gale,
    Bearing spoils from large wild roses,
    From pied pansies, nectar’d posies— [Page 22]
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      Purple chalices and golden,
    Of man’s eyes still unbeholden,
    Which the bee to-day shall drain;
From tall grasses big with sun and rain,
From glad vines no careful hand shall train
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      Which run riot round wild fountains
        That go flashing down the dale.

SEMICHORUS II. 

          Mount they car!
    Jewelled, golden, asbestine,
We would have divine delight,
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          And would gaze
        On the maze
    Of commingling waters’ blaze,
On wild teeming ocean’s daughters,
        Lakes and seas;
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          On the haze
Over lakes and wooded mountains,
Over fields and spray-crowned fountains,
Where the earliest day-gleams shiver,
On mild-glinting rill and river,
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  Where the youngest morning beams
Plash in streamlets play on streams,
    Waterfalls, like ruby wine,
In thy amethystine light.
        Mount thy car!
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Now while they sang we mounted that high car,
And, ere I was aware, Eos, the reins [Page 23]
Held in both hands, was flying up the steep
Way phosphorescent, I beside her. Tongues
Of flame played in the horses’ manes and all
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Seem’d hurrying flame, and soon the cold raw air
Of the dark world was stirred, and the stars blinked
And glimmered pale and went. But Lucifer
In untam’d splendour shone, and up the heavens
And o’er the broad Ægean blood-red shafts
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Were mixed with yellow, sapphire and beryl rays.

We saw the isles dispersed within what seemed
The hollow sea, like leaves within the cup,
When old tea-drinking crones their fortunes tell.
Afar lay Cypress whence Phoenicians came
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With wares to Argos and Mycenæ, bent
On trade and plunder, stealing youth and maid
And wife with golden tresses, limbs like light,
To sell in Egypt. On these shores they found
The shell-fish which contained their Tyrian dye.
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They settled in the land, built cities long
Renown’d in song, grew rich and great, and lost
The memory of their Eastern lands less fair.
They taught the Greek their arts, their alphabet;
To measure, mould , carve, gild, inlay,
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Design; to write in symbols and to frame
Grotesque impossible embodiments,
But Greece her own bright genius felt and soar’d
Into ideal worlds, and gave men forms
And faiths such as Divinity itself
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Might charm; the beautiful she first revealed,
And when from sleep and slaughter Europe woke [Page 24]
’Twas at the kiss of Greece upon her brow,
Blood-stained—the crown of grace in Plato’s speech,
The majesty of Pheidian art, above
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Life’s lusts, and wars loud varnish, glory called—
The worship of Euripides for worth
In man and tender woman’s selfless love.

Right over Athens she drew up her team,
Air-pawing, breathing blaze-mixed smoke, and down
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On tower and temple, mighty ruins, grey
Old columns of past empire, glory showered.
A buried world rose up before mine eye.
Methought to greet us, awful Pallas came,
Cold, love proof maid, serene, omnipotent
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In arms, who never snatch’d from human fields
A mortal youth, to dare the perils dread
Of charms divine, nor ever shed a tear,
No, not when battlefields were heaped with slain,
And widows tore their hair and screamed, and wild
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With woe-compelling grief, the lonely couch
A river made; her followed, glorious throng,
The singers, statesmen, sages, heroes old,
All that made Athens glory’s shrine, the world’s
Pharos; while far from Thebes Memnonian strains
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Were borne thro’ many a flowery-scented vale.
The mind of Eos turned to him she bore
Tithonus, his ripe beauty and his fate
Unripe, by fierce Achilles sent to death.
Her large blue orbs were dimmed with tears, such tears
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As weep immortal eyes, and swift, all blades
Of grass, all leaves, all flowers were gemm’d with dew;
[Page 25]

And oh! her beauty as she wept away
Those drops from cheeks fit thrones for love and joy!
“Nay not for him,” she said, “alone I mourn,
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Old gods dethroned may claim my tears and realms
Of beauty lost. Change is the only fate.
Even gods are subject to his mighty sway.
Each moment works its will, and as men dream
That they are thus or thus, they cease to be
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What they conceive themselves. Who could have thought
That Greece would sink to what she is? Proud Athens,
Home of ideal thought and noblest art—
Where now the poet, hero, sculptor, sage,
The men whose art prolongs the lives of gods,
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Which keeps them in men’s mouths when all their pomp
Of worship is no more; the words with wings;
The graceful wisdom full of calm and smiles,
The pœans sounding thro’ the laurels green
For ever, songs of joy which shook the dew
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From pink and rose? Comes never more that life
To fill the world with worship, proudly make
All time its debtor? Where the Olympian fight
For no base sordid prize? Where are the men
Those billows gladly bore to fame and power,
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Their triremes filled with valour fronting death,
While strains that still are living stirr’d the air?
Gone like their shadows in the glassy deep!
Their very monuments oblivion’s mockery.
That sea sounds doleful on desertless shores,
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And glory’s waters waste round voiceless isles.
No more, no, never, never more comes back
Upon the world such days, when men were men [Page 26]
All round, not narrow’d into specialisms,
When Æschylus fought and sang, when Pericles
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Commanded armies, ruled the state, loved art,
And the bard’s laurel kiss’d the victor’s crown.”
She waved her hand and on we went. We dash’d
Against great banks of cloud and made them blaze,
And far ahead the skirts of flying Night
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Were fring’d with silver lace, and round her neck
And swarthy bust a russet robe she cast
As though to shield her from day’s prying eye.
O’er Salamis and Megaris we drove;
A glance towards Delphi’s shrine and Dorian hills,
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And Achaian vales renowned in ancient song,
And high Olympus once the throne of gods.
Ulysses’ isle one moment claim’d our thoughts,
Then broke the sea upon the Apulian shore.
Canusium, Brundusium, Cannæ,
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Arpi, Arpinum, these unnoticed pass’d.
We paus’d a moment o’er Imperial Rome,
Her tale—the Milky Way of mighty deeds,
Her streets a wilderness of monuments,
Her very dust made of the bones of saints;
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The Column, Forum, Coliseum, Arch,
Passed like the shadow of a bird.
                                           “Ah there,”
I cried, “you have a theme.”
                                      “A theme indeed,”
She said, “on which I well might dwell, for none
Have loved to meet me more than those whose home
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Was Rome. Cæsar returning late from revel,
Power-musing, gazed upon the grey above [Page 27]
The Sabine Hills, noting with emulous eye
My conquering car across their summits flash;
The capitol in purest outline stood
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Against the steely background of the sky;
The hum of life woke down the Sacred Way;
The selfish clients throng’d the doors and halls
Of those proud nobles. Mightiest and truest souls,
The tenderest spirits and noblest hearts,
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Their highest inspirations find in me.
From Baiæ Horace oft Vesuvius’ come
Has watch’d grow red beneath my burning wheels,
And Virgil loved to see my eager steeds
Beat the dark ether into silver fire,
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And hear the gentle breeze my rushing wheels
Send fragrant o’er the trembling forest trees.
Mine is the hour for meditation; heart
And mind are freest; care but half awake;
Pale lust is drowsing; blear-eyed drunkenness
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Shrinks scared from me; the soul she yearns to God;
She feels her wings, like birds about to leave
The nest, and blesses Him who made all things
So fair! The rose is ne’er so lovely-sweet
As when my rays gleam through the tremulous pearls
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Within the shining ivory of its shells.
What time to watch the sea like that when o’er
Its steel-blue paths I drive, transforming sky
And wave, hiding in gleaming tissues gemmed,
Dawn’s russet jerkin? Mine’s the hour to think,
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To pray, to hear great nature’s heart beat. He
Who’d know himself, know what and when to do,
Know what is best and fairest, what of power [Page 28]
Is in the step which walks with us, who’d draw
Into his life the forces of the gods,
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Must greet me waking worlds from daily death,
A resurrection comes with every dawn.
Yon glory-blazon’d city, black with crimes,
The mightiest stage on which mankind has play’d—
There the great battle was fought out afresh,
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Christ crucified a thousand times—the rack,
The living torch, the wild beast’s maw, the sword,
The myriad shout exultant of fierce joy
Within those Flavian walls, now ruin’s home,
Then white with togas, splendid, beauty-crown’d,
390
Rank above rank, to watch the naked faith
Engage the world, nor dream’d that the poor slave
They doom’d had conquer’d death, and smote their rule
With truth’s all deadly touch. Gentle souls serene!
Their hymns, pure as the carols of the birds
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Of dawn, I’ve heard mount o’er the Palatine,
While in the palace lust and madness gloom’d.
Long had our ancient lovely creeds decay’d—
The soulless relics of a by-gone day.
Their time was up. I’d heard glad angels sing
400
In Bethlehem, had seen His after triumph,
Captivity led captive, Death in chains,
Just as the Jordan crimson’d in my ray,
But Olivet a glory wore which mine
Eclipsed. I bow’d and reined my steeds until
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Into the heaven of heavens He passed, the gates
Of God’s supreme abode clang’d opening wide,
And shouts and songs of triumph shook the stars.
Him well I knew; by Him I sprang to life; [Page 29]
Like Pallas from the brain of Zeus full-arm’d,
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“Let there be light!” he said, and straight I was,
And driving ’thwart the limitless abyss,
Woke up old Chaos from eternal sleep,
And startled stars remote and farthest space
With the first footfalls of light’s glancing feet.
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Huge Darkness for a moment stood appal’d,
Then went, vague terror on his swarthy brow.
Alas! Christ’s cult has been depraved. Faithless,
Taking his cue from curiosity,
The priest, grown sceptical corrupts all creeds.
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Weak men and weaker women fain would know
The future, tho’ among its factor’s will
Should hold no humble place. They’d have the god
Some special favours to themselves afford
Some better revelation of himself
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Than starry spheres, than all earth’s beauties teach
In form and tint, the sky-reflecting streams
Which feed the flower enamell’d odorous fields,
The lakes wherein the mountains glass their bulks
Majestic, looking greater in the wave,
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Like lives of great ones passed away, whose word
Yet echoes in men’s hearts, whose deeds still hold
The field against the blows of time. Debased
Their pur-blind hearts conceive he’ll come at call
Of spells in dim-lit holes, and that he loves
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Oppressive smells, who makes wild trees and shrubs
To load the winds with perfume. Fittest fane
For Him the boundless universe he made.
But men are children, various in their growth,
And so the soul be brought to touch with God’s, [Page 30]
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The end of all sincere religion’s gained.
If man would reach the highest possible
He must, like Enoch, walk with God; must build
His reservoir of power among the stars
If he would go as high; who’d soar must feel
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The strength divine within his life and hear
The unfaltering wings of fate beat time with his,
And, save such dread companionship, alone.
We minor gods our end subserv’d, but fail’d
To strike the master note of love, which chord
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He struck evoking softest, sweetest strains,
With deeper spell than Orpheus’ powerful lyre,
Which balm on hearts afflicted breathes and peace
On storm-tost souls, and more than martial airs
Can stir the hero’s heart; can nerve a child
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With gaze untroubled, frowning world to front;
Its simple notes in purest accents heard,
And ancient crowns and creeds antique dissolve;
The world for man new-born was made anew;
Life throbb’d beneath the ribs of death; new life
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And full of joy in charnel hearts; and o’er
Dominions of despair hope’s shining star
Was seen, and sin was spurn’d. Christ rais’d man high,
His own vain dreams have sunk him low.”
She ceased and shook the silvery reins which flash’d
465
Like lightening bands above the Central Sea.
A southern breeze bore balm upon its wings
And shed Arabian perfume round our way.
“How fair this world,” I cried.
                                        “Aye fair,” she said,
“Fair the bright flowers whose eyes are fair for mine; [Page 31]
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Fair snowy falls and stream and fell and vale;
The farmer faring nimbly to his fields,
His bucksome wife loud-chucking for her hens;
The burly plowman turning up the earth;
Small shapely fingers dressing loaded vines;
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The rooks at parley in the pine-tree tops;
The orchestral bursts of joy from little throats
Of black-bird, thrush and robin, linnet, finch,
And lark—that rocket of heart-glowing song!
The sea—the free, the rushing waves at play;
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The steamship holding on ’gainst wind and tide;
The sailor singing as he scours the deck;
Fair is the mother praying with her babes;
The boy, sly-creeping o’er his sleeping sire;
The maiden in her lover’s pure embrace,
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Their trysting place the dewy fields of dawn;
The ivied cottage whence the smoke up curls,
Its feet touched by the foam of sobbing seas;
Fair is contrition’s early prayer to heaven;
Fair tender-handed nurses watching pain;
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Fair holy nuns their orisons repeating;
And fair the poet drinking in my force,
Framing great songs whose waves melodious bear
High thoughts like ships rich laden. Fair all these,
But I could show you where ghast murder glares,
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Terror with all her furies standing near;
Where at this hour which seems so fair to you,
Bewilder’d girls drown their helpless babes;
Where women beautiful as Dian’s smile
In silver seas, drowse guilty in gilt splendour,
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Or sleep the outworn thralls of lust; men dower’d [Page 32]
With Fortune’s favours, yes and those with gifts
Of mind, in drunken languor snoring life
Away; gaunt hunger crimp’d in garrets vile;
The moon-light ruffian coming from his work
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Of savage war on civil life; and here
A mountain side, a peasant’s hut, his home
Where he and his were born, but whence vile greed
Ejects him now unjustly, for it made
His load too heavy. He in anger scowls;
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The aged palsied mother weeps; the wife
With apron wipes her tears away; then scolds
The instruments of law, to them the dogs
Of pitiless oppression; sons tall, strong,
With murderous eye survey the bailiff hard;
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The children cry, the neighbours helpless crowd
Against the cordon thrown around by power.
        Aye fair the world! but did I make you see
The ceaseless, measureless flow of heart-wrung tears,
And hear the chorus vast of woeful sighs!
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Fair were this world, were but men’s actions fair.
But now—”
             Quick moved her hand, a gesture proud
Of scorn. The lightning gleam’d within her eyes
Deep blue; crimson her cheek, her nostrils spread;
But pity driving anger out she cried:
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“Poor man! Not wholly hateful even at worst,
At best, he’s greater than the gods themselves.
The poet and priest have praised us long in song
More laden with coarse flattery than altars
With fat of lamb and ram and bullock, for they deem’d
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We loved the odour which your dainty dame [Page 33]
Will faint to find invade her boudoir. Now
A god will say a word in praise of man—
We are immortal. Man’s frail life a whiff
From swamp or river puffs out; all the odds
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Against achievement; his rewards they grow
Upon the precipice’s ledge; he toils,
Fails, fights again for doubtful prizes, plucks
His flowers with wide-mouth’d ruin gaping far
Below; he lives and sweats for other men,
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Whose tardy praises will not reach his ears.
He thinks, he acts, he laughs, he weeps, he loves,
And always in death’s shadow; whatever house
He builds, his destined lodging is the tomb.
The bride he wreaks his heart on, death will claim.
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And make a grinning horror of the face
Which thrilled his soul. The dome where genius dwells
And whence it sends its thoughts, like arms, to clasp
The universe, becomes a hideous piece
Of crumbling bone. Yet on the isthmus small
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Of life, the past and future, like great seas
On either hand whose deeps oblivious
Devouring all, make mockery of fame,
What works what plans immense the insect rears!
We see fruition; we the end enjoy;
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Ten thousand heroes walk the earth and sow
And know they cannot reap, but those they love
Will—mother, wife or child; ten thousand who
Would gladly die for men they never knew.
Such lives, such deeds, the noblest praise for him
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Whose fingers form’d wondrous man. [Page 34]
    All Europe lay beneath us now; a map
Whereon since Cæsar’s time change scribbles, like
A wayward child perverse; red battle fields
As thick as tomb-stones in the parish ground,
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And armies that in thunder yet will break
On bloodier fields.
                          More silvery grey the clouds
Above and round the city of the Seine.
Clear did it show in regular beauty fair.
Clear showed its long straight streets with boskage lined;
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Its boulevards, and palaces and towers
And domes, and thro’ the wilderness of art,
Beneath its many ponts, between its wealth
Of trees umbrageous, the river moved;
The cab its light—a pin head, plied for hire;
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From Neuilly and well-cultur’d Courbevoie
The market cart came ‘neath the Arc de Triomphe,
And, looking like a beetle, hurried down
The Champs Elysées, which contrasted now,
In the pure quiet of the early dawn,
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With the coarse splendours of its nightly wont.
Empty those gardens where vain pleasure haunts,
Where queens of lust to-day in diamonds shine,
Who on no distant morrows die in rags.
The Boulevardian roar is hushed; the blaze
585
Of Cafés veiled; of thrice ten thousand shops
The glory’s out; but all that soul can stir
Remains: the dome which rises o’er his tomb
Who broke on Europe bearing death and fire,
And carrying terror to the hearts of kings,
590
Whole nations mesmerizing, whose column stands [Page 35]
And Arch Triumphant, reverenced by those
Who would all else destroy. That gilded dome
Shines like another sun, and there lies he
Silent, but still a wonder and a power.
595
Yet more inspiring are the monuments
Which speak of death to tyrants and of hope
For men, of aspirations after good,
The love of liberty, the love of man,
The love of art, of song. Yes! Paris stands
600
By suffering purified, with more true force
To raise men’s thoughts than when false glitter call’d
From every side proud dissolute wealth,
To dazzle thro’ the streets of slaves.
                                                         She read
My thoughts, and, answering them, the goddess spake:
605
“Amazing genius in the Kelt abides.
How sweet his warm, quick, gentle courtesy!
How brave in arms! Excelling in all arts!
How loyal to the leader of his heart!
His very vanity a power. The price
610
He pays for his great gifts is great: balance,
The steady aim and duty made supreme.
France might be well content to-day. She lost
But what she took by force. But thunders crouch
In every heart. Ere long they’ll Rhine-ward spring,
615
And, though the fight will not be such as when
A court of cowards and cocottes held sway,
’Twill end disastrously for France. Her foe
Has all the great conditions of success.
The people will be made ambition’s pawns,
620
Ten thousand bleed to make one leader great, [Page 36]
Perhaps to make a tyrant; such is a man;
Of all his follies war’s red glory worst.
If wisdom ruled, the peoples of the world
Might be as one.”
                   The isles of freedom lay
625
Like jewels on the ocean’s breast. The roar
Of London now was still. Its million flues
Had not yet thrown a canopy opaque
Between it and the sky. A thousand spires
Rose clear into the air. Their crosses shone.
630
Huge chimneys hideous forms reared above
The sea of roofs, and, like a penitent,
The Tower, full of remorseful memories, showed.
The river seems to slumber on its way;
Its shores of new embankment, buildings old,
635
St. Paul’s great dome, St. Stephen’s ornate tower,
Were mirrored in its calm but murky tide.
Huge barges lay, like monsters of the deep
Asleep. Ten thousand masts were tipp’d with gold.
’Twas fancy, or I heard the ghost-like tread
640
Of stray policemen in deserted streets.
A speck, the waggon laden with fresh fruits
And roots and flowers, towards Covent garden moved.
A blot of wretchedness crept down the strand,
Another night of sin and gin and pain
645
Gone by. Slow limpt she to her squalid home,
If home was hers in that hard populous hive.
    “There,” said my guide, “the largest city time
E’er saw, the seat of peerless empire, built
By valorous deeds and counsels sage, now caught
650
In the fierce draw of wild democracy, [Page 37]
Whose rapids menace death. Founder she will
Amongst those howling rocks unless the wise
And patriot rule the hour. The House of Lords—
A scuttled, mastless hulk in stormy seas.
655
The boasted constitution’s gone, and England,
Unless she builds anew, ’gainst perils new
Will split up in the roaring surge. The man
Of state to-day who wins success is he
Who rattles loudest for the monstrous child,
660
With headlong passions and imperial power.
Poor tricks are played. Any bait to which
The fish will rise. Great men of long renown
Palter with truth, and seek, like circus clowns,
To ride two horses; daub themselves and lose
665
Identity. What they are, what next
They’ll do, no man can say. They’ll summersault,
Or jump through all their principles. They’ll fall,
They’ll tumble, then up smiling come, and bow
For cheers, that Burke had rather die than hear.
670
A few, indeed, the danger see. The rest
Sing songs of progress, or in dalliance live,
Deaf to the ruin-thundering billows near.
The greatest and the noblest nation, too,
That’s risen yet should not so fall.” She ceased.
675
    “Is that small isle,” I asked, “whose earth-fenced fields
Gleam emerald from below, the land of Flood
And Grattan?”
                       Answering she sighed, or seem’d
To sigh: “Yes; that’s Ierne there.”
                                             “O stained,”
680
I cried, “with centuries of tears and crimes [Page 38]
Recriminating crimes, what hope for her?
Must she forever lie a floating sorrow
On heaven upbraiding seas? Will never fall
From skies of mercy healing dews for her?
685
No power e’er break the spell of anarchy?
And fill the land with happy homes and men
Made truly free from wrong by rectitude,
And balanc’d judgment pointing to what’s fit?”
“That land,” she said, “will also have its day.
690
Fail’d, fail’d, ignominiously they’ve failed
To whom the glorious privilege of rule
Was given. Lost in low frivolity,
On them were lost high opportunities.
They spent, drank, sank and soddened into swine,
695
Or lived, bloodhounds and beagles, chasing whom
They should protect. No sense at all of duty.
Their highest art to run a fox to death,
Harrying a hare their noblest day’s delight;
The peasant girl a quarry for their lusts;
700
License their law, and blind to skyey portents,
They ground who’ll now grind them; their wisdom’s thrift
To blight the land of which they were the lords.
The hour of retribution comes, and time’s
Old ledger evens up accounts. To-day
705
In freedom’s happy land th’evictor’s child
Bows to the evicted’s, and low-cringing sues
For palty place—so terrible is Fate!
The danger’s now men may mistake the cry
Of blinding Vengeance for the voice of Justice.
710
If headlong hate’s hot counsels shall prevail,
And truth and honesty be nosed aside, [Page 39]
As swine would pearls, then comes the hour of fate
For those who stand elate on victory’s steps,
Now weigh the duties favouring gods impose.
715
Wolf-like attacks on one defenceless man,
The cruel boycott piled on travails pangs,
The sinless heifer hock’d by senseless hands,
The yet green harvest mow’d with envy’s scythe,
The worst of tyrannies in worst of forms,
720
A reign of terror through the country side,
The honest farmer who will dare be just,
Is either slain by brother peasants’ hands
Or earless drives his tailless kine to town—
Such deeds, tho’ fruits of misused power—for not
725
The money taken from the land, the trim
Spruce agent gutting huts, the agony
Of bursting hearts that dared not speak, embrace
The worst; the degradation of the man
O’er shadows all: yet none the less such deeds
730
The name of freedom soil and balk the aim
Of those who’d bring in better happier days.
E’en God’s aims fail because of a man’s misdeeds.
This only certain, Goodness, Truth, the Right
Prevail at last. But man his own best star
735
Can be his own worst bale. Once give him power
Forgot are all the lessons of all times,
He yokes himself to passion, heaven provokes
To send on him the plague which crush’d his foes.
Yet hope’s star rises o’er that troubled land.
740
A healthy breeze comes from her stormy sky,
Will blow down bigotry’s corrupting shrines,
Her fatuous feuds the nightmare of vain dreams [Page 40]
Of day’s delusive and of ways defiled
By deeds ill-suited to the present hour.
745
She’ll play a part her world-scatter’d sons
Can watch, nor blush: Empire’s right hand; her soil
No longer drain’d to deck the Paris jade;
Security where dark assassins lurk’d;
Fields laden with earth’s bounty where high walls
750
Uprear’d by pride, wide-barrenness enclosed;
Contentment on the yeoman’s ruddy face,
Within his heart the glow of charity
For all the brother peoples of the earth,
And decent self-respect where pig and ass
755
Were hous’d on equal terms with man.”
                                         She ceased;
The horses forward sprang; the Atlantic broad
Was well in view. The chariot flying o’er
The watery plain, bright roads of purple wide
Were dashed this way and that
                           O! the pulsing sense
760
Of life exstatic! O the wide, wide sea!
The sea-gulls wheel and poise and dip for prey,
The porpoise bounding through the billows, whales
Shooting to heaven great towers of glittering spray,
Their brown backs heaving huge above the wave,
765
Like boats upturne’d. What joy to sail for ever
High o’er the dark blue sea!” And Eos spake:

    “I’ve told you of man’s greatness,” said the goddess
“Amaze and admiration fill your soul
At this wide sweep of measureless sea
770
Now all but calm. Some day you may again [Page 41]
Stray o’er these waters by my side, when clouds
Will wrap my car, clouds crashing thunder; hail
And lightening flaring round our heads; the bolt
Of Jove, wild hissing in the mad abyss,
775
And then unharm’d for I will throw my shield
Invisible twixt death and you, you will admire,
For you have lov’d the storm whose choral music,
Long-pealing thro’ ærial isles, has been
To you from infancy a joy. I’ve seen
780
Upon the sea, what all surpassed itself
In storm or calm: men save lives and die,
Nor blench with all its fury hurtling round
Their heads serene; Columbus crossing ways
Untrodden, guided by bold thought and faith,
785
And mark’d him quell his mutinous men and move
Heroic in his slender craft, unawed
By man or elements, and reach his gaol
Despite of faltering fickle hearts; despite
The warring dread white-banner’d billows vast,
790
The hurtling, roaring, spar-shaking, sibilant seas,
As in battalions up they rose to bar
The invader. Toils, privations, envy cares,
Ingratitude, neglect, the scorn of fools,
Successful treachery, contempt and want,
795
All this was his for throwing wide the gates
Not only of new lands with wealth untold,
But of an era new for down-crush’d man.
For liberty required a virgin soil.
What has Columbus done for Europe’s slaves!
800
Not only for the homeless happy homes;
With the small leaven of great pioneers, [Page 42]
It made and makes from Europe’s ooze and scum,
The foremost nation in fair freedom’s ranks.
It’s citizens—they walk the earth like kings.
805
Proud self-reliant, they have stript the crest
From idleness and swept from toil the ban,
And for the brave and strong thrown all doors wide.
There is the field of victory over kings
And tyrants, aye, and o’er the passions wild
810
Of the impulsive throng. The courtly mob
May sneer, but no where else the crowding mass
Of men have been erect and free, each man
A sovereign, knowing this, respecting all,
However poor, who bravely work their way,
815
Not capable of bending pliant knees,
Of doffing cap to any child of earth.”

    We noted soon great ice-bergs floating like
Abandoned isles and curving round the shores
Of Nova Scotia, Anticosti, New
820
Brunswick, Prince Edward and Quebec, the waves
Of the St. Lawrence Gulf with refluent sweep;
The fishing fleets like fairy tents encamped
Upon the plains, and schools of mackarel
Moved shoreward shining in a thousand hues,
825
While o’er them boiled the sea or seemed to boil.

    We reached, admired and pass’d that city hoar
Which wears an old face in a world all new,
From those high plain and storied citadel,
Wolfe’s glory streams for ever, and we mark’d
830
How the broad river roll’d along, wide-hemmed
With wooded shores, the land and water all [Page 43]
One mighty maze of ruby sun-lit mist,
Far-burning wood and sheets of silver fire.
A shade of thought passed like a cloudlet o’er.
835
“Lo! there,” she said, “a piece of French antique
’Gainst which the waves of time its blasts and storms
Would seem to break in vain. They cling down there
To forms and glories and traditions old
Of other lands and of long-vanished years,
840
And while they live beneath one rule, they own
The civilization of another, not
In harmony therewith; nor can they cease
To look beyond the sea until that day,
Far off, which impulse new will give and bind
845
The heart’s affections round the land they till.
Their mother then, no nursing substitute
For one long leagues away. They have the force,
The have the genius of a mighty race;
Poets and thinkers, statesmen eloquent;
850
Their peasants gentle, virtuous folk; but lost
Are many winning graces of the Gaul
At home. Old wine is pent in bottles new;
You see the same faults farther west in those
Blind egotists, who damn in others what
855
They do themselves—the merest slaves of cant,
Of what has been—incapable of deeds
Strong-limbed and bold, such as are born of thought
And will. But there shall come a race in which
This Gallic stream will play a noble part,
860
A race, which gathering strength from diverse founts,
Will—a majestic river—onward flow, [Page 44]
Full volumn’d, vast, its guide its proper bent,
And take its character and hues from all
That makes the present great—rolling along
865
A crowded avenue of wealth and power.

She shook the reins which gleam’d like lightning bands,
The horses toss’d their meteor heads, the clouds
Flew round their feet in darting flames, the mist
Rose up illuminated round our wake,
870
Which blazed a diamond track for many a league.
Upon my brow the wind was cold; I heard
The rush of wheels so quick each look’d a fire
Of dazzling brightness; held by power divine
I held my place.
                           But now she drew the reins
875
Tight, and the horses stopped. I heard the singing
Of tributary streams, and looking down
Saw where the river—the Ottawa—cut out
Of the eldest ribs of earth a theatre vast.
Like threads of silver run from silver coin
880
To coin, it wound between the hills, and spread
At intervals in wide and beauteous lakes.

    Right in the midst a hill fit throne for rule,
And crowning this were stately structures, towers
And domes and gothic arches quaint, with rich
885
Device of ornament. A shade of grave
Reflection passed across her face but did
Not mar the outlines of immortal youth,
Nor dim its hues. Her eyes looked far away
As though all future time was glass’d within [Page 45]
890
Their depths: so look’d the Cumæan Sibyl’s,
Her first convulsions o’er, when she foretold
Æneas all the years held in their womb
For his descendants.
                           “These,” she said, “were built
By one of large conceptions, forecast sage,
895
Imperial dreams, in whom Ulyssean wiles
Were wedded with a grasp for state affairs
Which mates him with those mighty minds whose care
And patient wisdom nations found; great souls,
Whose monuments are continents, from whom
900
Whole races drink their inspiration.
He had to work with crude materials gross,
His task to wield in one wide-scatter’d states.
Abroad, at home, fat ignorance beset
His path: the smug sagacity of men
905
Purblind,—the chosen voice of those ill fit
To choose who shall declare what law must be—
The roar of calumny, faction’s furious feuds,
The want of heart, of faith, proper to times
When Mammon-worship is the shameless cult
910
Of most,—with these and more he had to fight,
But he nor blench’d nor faltered one small hour,
But like a law bore on, borne up by hopes
Such as are parents of immortal things.”

    She ceased. The sense’s memory, tremulous with
915
Her tones, like some rare music often heard
Before, with happy pain my heart made faint,
And in my eyes the waves well’d up from founts
Of joy and grief; the chords of mourning thrill’d [Page 46]
As for some loss divine, while all the springs
920
Of rapture moved; meanwhile thro’ tears I mark’d
The rosy bulge of delicate clouds which slept
On either side. She said:
                                          “Lo! beautiful lives
Dissolved in mist and rocked asleep by airs
Impalpable as they.”
                                     But up there came
925
The phantom roar of waters. Bending o’er
The car which now was near the earth, I saw
Where over rocks wild torrents gnashed and foam’d,
And I was noting how the mass of white
And furious billows, catching rays of dawn,
930
Began to show like a great rose in vase
Of silver, fringed with jasmin flowers, when she
Went on:
                 “Yes, there’s the seat of empire young,
A people destin’d to be great and free,
Tho’ oft blind ignorance and greed these halls
935
Invade, and in fair Freedom’s very fane
Swine guttle. Ah! these eyes have seen what man
Can do. Full many a morning have I watch’d
The envious croud in Athens spit out hate
Of noble Pericles, the balanc’d man,
940
Wise with all wisdom, beautiful with love
Of every art, who made Athena’s home
Worthy of her—that light for evermore
To man; for sink he ne’er so low, the hog
In him may overgrow the soul, and lust
945
And drunkenness drive far the graceful forms
Which wait on the pure life, still must he rise [Page 47]
Again, redeemed, drawn by the power of Athens—
Her beauty fairer than the lover dreams
Of her he loves—the greatness of the mind,
950
Calm, self-contained, the music struck by souls
For goodness passionate from nature’s strings,
The scorn of death, the love of noble deeds—
All this will rest on mankind like a spell,
And spite of filth and crime, disease and death,
955
Cause them to move towards excellence. Ah! true,
The course is slow. The freshening morning comes
Upon the heel of night and gives each day
A new birth to the world; the years steal by
And leave behind their legacies of fact;
960
The generations rise and fall like waves,
But ere they die the store of knowledge swell;
The centuries bearing names and deeds of note,
And petty pangs and lyric joys, and loves
Too weighty for frail lives—the centuries flee;
965
A thousand years are gone like yesterday;
Old empires sink into decrepitude;
New kingdoms rise; even races pass away;
New types appear; new forms of civic life—
But man is still the same blind fool, the same
970
Base groveller, still will he hug his chains,
And still pursue what leads to chains and death.
Down the ruining precipices of time
Tyrant and tyrannies are hurled, and man
A moment rises free and stands erect;
975
The future opens like a dawn of spring;
It seems as if afar in depths of space
The stars were harping choral symphonies, [Page 48]
In sympathy with worlds born again,
And a new era stood upon the verge
980
Of fact Alas! Vile use has bred the slave’s
Habit. The horse has flung his rider off
But runs bewilder’d till another holds
The rein and makes him feel the master’s touch;
The late wash’d sow grows sad with cleanliness;
985
But as the pig imagination glows
With dreams of wallowing near, she grunts with joy.
Ruled by Pisistratus men could not be
Worse slaves than they are there in that young land
In this new world. They have academies;
990
And from a thousand tabernacles gleams
The cross, the symbol sweet of truths more deep
Than Greek philosophy, or modern lore.
The have the garner’d wealth of ages old
And new, but cannot think—the serfs of bold
995
And blatant calumny, whose breath of life
Is rank vituperation of the best
And wisest men. That form of civic life
Which liberty and government by the sage
Secures, nowhere in the round world is seen.
1000
Democracy puts apes in power, and howls
Hosannas praising not humility
Divine an ass bestriding, but the ass
Himself, out-braying hideous egotisms,
Richly caparison’d and capering o’er
1005
The prostrate crowd, while those who live, the salt
Of human things, who keep society
From mortifying, hated are push’d
Aside; low cunning more and more is crown’d. [Page 49]
Without some practice, who can plough a field?
1010
Without instruction, who can make a watch?
Without much study, who can master art?
But men will act as if the veriest boor
Were fit for government, while government
Of all things man can do is hardest, most
1015
Beset with problems such as only minds
Of finest fibre, trained and confident
From knowledge and the sense of power can cope
With. Give to poor small brains the task to drive
This chariot, Phaethon’s fate awaits him, worse
1020
Than Phaethon’s fate, perhaps, the people whom
He tries to rule. But still things onward move;
And though the curve that’s near will seem depraved,
And is, in time’s large circles progress lives;
And ’tis permitted generous hope to keep,
1025
That in a far off day the dull will honour
Worth with other meed than hate. The heart
Of mediocrity will sweetened be
By sweet benevolences born of time
And sad experience. Benefactors wise
1030
Of men will then not have to wait till death
For their reward; but many a lapsing year
Must pass, before the harp from which the Fates
Will strike this music has been made, and oh!
How many thousand times my burning wheels
1035
Will lighten o’er this earth before I can
Announce that happy morn. Right under here
The savage ruled and on that very hill
His councils held, councils which in the mind
Of Jove rank near as high as those which now [Page 50]
1040
A race self-styled superior hold, alone
In cunning great. They do not feed on dogs
Or human flesh, but moral cannibals
They are. They kill with venomous lies and then
Like ghouls they batten on the corpse, and scenes
1045
Humiliating as an Indian dance
Around a white dog swimming in its broth,
Have been enacted in that chamber where
A Cicero should find himself at home,
And Burke’s deep wisdom be a common thing.
1050
Who worships truth? who honours liberty?
A few. Too few. The mass are lost in love
Of gain. In low desires, conceptions all
Unworthy of the task they should essay.
Talk statesmanship to them, you cast your pearls
1055
Away; but rave and slaver out abuse
And they will crunch the hardest epithets,
With joy the garbage bolt, and gulp the swill
Of reeking rhetoric.”
                                   Her cheek here seem’d
To burn as with a touch of angry red.
1060
The reins she shook which flashed like lightening bands
Along the horses’ backs. Like fire when winds
Are strong, whole streets ablaze, roofs crashing in,
The sky red-hot, the roar as of mad seas
At war, the firemen’s toil in vain—like fire
1065
They forward sprang, and, in a twinkling, towers
And blocks of masonry majestical
Looked like a doubtful edifice of dreams,
Dim, air-built castles of forgotten years;
The cataract a second glanc’d—a gleam [Page 51]
1070
Of white ’gainst rainbow dust; the lakes swept by,
Reflecting now the forms of fiery steeds,
And now a rosy shadow, and again
The gem-like radiance of our burnish’d trail.
She reined her horses, turn’d her head and said:
1075
“How beautiful must that fair city be
When o’er Laurentian hills Apollo sinks!”

“O Eos, splendid in thy gleam!” I said,
“’Tis far more beautiful at sunset hours,
And at that time upon the river oft
1080
A song is heard, which should your gentle ear
Not scorn a mortal’s voice, I’ll sing. I sang,
And as I sang the air was play’d by hands
Unseen on some mysterious harp divine.—

“Fair is the sight, when sinking to his rest,
1085
The sun leans gently on the mountain’s breast.
Empurpled clouds his radiant limbs bedeck,
And golden curls hang round his glossy neck.
The enamour’d river flushes in his gaze,
And every westward window is ablaze;
1090
And every tower and turret gleams awhile
In the warm radiance of his parting smile;
And every drop that Chaudière flings on high,
One moment wears a gold or Tyrian dye;
And every soul by nature finely wrought,
1095
Is touch’d till feeling becomes one with thought,
And thought is rapture, like some moon-drawn sea,
The brimming spring-tide of eternity
Within the breast, on which the soul sets sail, [Page 52]
And leaves this world with its allurements stale;
1100
And when at last the sun is lost to sight,
And the pale moon looks wistful for the night,
Along those tracts of heaven where he has passed,
Great gorgeous draperies of clouds are massed;
Or war seems there, with all its carnage dire,
1105
Buildings in flames and battlements on fire.
You think you hear the sonorous trumpet’s swells,
The roar of cannon and the whiz of shells;
Or tints so tender linger in the sky,
The heart o’er-flows and wets the raptur’d eye,
1110
And blesses him who taught the soul to know
Such heavenly beauty in this world below;
For in the soul is all the beauty there
And without love ’tis so much empty air.
The purple fades; more bright the moon beams shine;
1115
Beneath the deep’ning blue a saffron line
Alone recalls the pageantry and power,
The boisterous splendors of that sunset hour;
The saffron’s lost in ultra-deep marine,
And starry Night is mistress of the scene!”
1120

“Ah that’s a sight,” she said, “I fain would see,
But even the gods must limit their desires.”

    O’er all Ontario’s wealth of field and town
The music followed, and still breath’d around
When Lake Superior spread below, it’s isles
1125
Of bosky beauty fragrant, mirror’d clear;
At last the prairie wide, with tint of flower
As delicate as her own cheek. [Page 53]
                                                       We paused,
The broad brown prairie hollowed-out beneath.
“Monotonous,” she cried, “yet like the sea.”
1130
I said: “ Its beauty must be seen from earth,
Its dazzling, glowing skies all clear of cloud
And fervent with the sun-god’s strongest beams,
Or strewn with soft white pillows tier on tier;
Like swans at rest upon a sea of blue,
1135
They rise from rim to top o’ the sky’s great womb,
Fruitful of beauty, gendering all the wealth
Of yellow grain and roots, and all green things,
The flowers that shine as if sun-rays took root,
And shredded stars in balmy dewy nights
1140
Were broadcast sown to be the stars of earth:
Blue bells, the sun-flower small and great, the rose,
The crocus and anemone, the wild
Convolvulus, and thousands more I love,
And daily scent and see but cannot name;
1145
Or when the Storm broods and his wide wings glower
O’er all the vast expanse of level land,
Which cowers, grows darker, flatter under the black
Terror of dread thunder-quivering pinions,
Death-stricken by the wild far-flashing fire,
1150
Arm’d with swift death and splendours from his eye,
And by the voice of him which breaks like seas
That rise to make a universal wreck,
And bellow ruin, deafening remotest stars,
Then fails afar on the shrinking, shuddering air,
1155
Dying in murmurs of loud discontent
And anger, like a world muttering pain,
Amid the blazing agonies of collapse, [Page 54]
And making kindred planets blink with fear;
Or in the clear bright days of Autumn’s glow,
1160
The gracious bracing time, spirit and balm
In every breath and breeze, when even the blast
Has some soft touch of sweetness, and every pulse
Glows with a thrill of rapture, and to live
Is joy; its superb sunset pageantries,
1165
When large and yellow suns go down aflame
’Mid tapestries immense of purple clouds,
And continents of vapour, their vast hearts
On fire; the russet purple and silver rise
Of suns which grow all gold within an hour,
1170
Wide-gleaming, splendid, indescribable,
In spring time, or in harvest when the seas
Of golden grain shine like the golden fleece,
Or in mid winter, all the sky clear, glad,
The purple-hollowed crust of wide white plain,
1175
O’er which and thwart the trail of dazzling light,
The powder’d snow, in forms fantastic, skips
To music of the northern blast, and skims
Away and never turns in that wild waltz,
Not for a thousand miles; the sluggard then,
1180
With feet on stove and pipe in mouth, his blood
Bakes, while the man whose blood is pure and rich,
Flesh and muscle and nerve and heart in tune
With the clear spirit that bears up his life,
Revels in stimulating airs, and drinks
1185
The cold pure ether, stirring high the heart
Like wine. Clad in thick furs, he drives or walks,
And, feeling exaltation, gathers power.
In early winter comes a day all sun, [Page 55]
While every shrub is thick with silver frost.
1190
The air, like choicest champagne, thrills your veins.
No place so fit to watch the wheeling stars,
And see the northern lights illume the dark.
The soft night’s solemn stillness fills with awe
The fragrant air, the soul with other worlds;
1195
And tho’ no trees can tempt the pensive moon
To tarry o’er their tops, her course she holds
In the wide silence of a prairie night
’Mid stars that seem to peer more close to earth,
And all as sweetly lures to contemplation,
1200
And fills with passions calm, yet fiery strong,
A feeling weird unutterably deep,
As when on Latmos down she came to kiss
Endymion’s lips, her lovely fingers white
Within his locks of lavish gold, the while his breath
1205
Glow’d fast and warm upon her pale-flushed cheek,
And set her lips aflame; or when she charm’d
Orion ere on Merope he gazed,
Or thou exultantly to Delos bore
His mighty beauty for secure retreat.
1210
In vain! Her jealous arrows found him there.

    “Speak not of him,” she said, “I saw him lie
The mourning billows breaking at his feet,
A hundred shafts swift rooted in his breast; his face
Pale, tortured; while cold Dian paler moved,
1215
With tranquil triumph smiling, as my team
Made the raw ether burn like my brow.” [Page 56]

    She sigh’d, a sigh of recollected pain,
And said: “I’ll play the gadding gossip for
Your sake to-day. See where the iron horse
1220
Pants, puffs out smoke and snorts and cries and bears
Long trains thro’ what was wilderness a year
Ago; flinging his smoke aloft he makes
A passing cloud. Upon these plains immense
Where here and there the signs of man at work
1225
Are seen, it is but yesterday and the red
Man, the poor savage chased the buffalo.
I’ve seen him in his prime and his decay;
But save the wild ox and his pursuers
This land has been a solitude since it
1230
Was heaved up from the sea. For centuries?—
Oh! yes, for thousands, those bright lakes have shone
Unmark’d; the wild ducks lived upon their breasts
Nor feared the fowler’s shot; the roses bloomed;
The gopher dug his hole and stood erect,
1235
And ran and lived his lonely graceful life,
And played among the grasses and the flowers;
The ground-lark sang; the prairie hen and plover
Their broods unharmed reared; the antelope
At times a prize to the Indian’s arrow fell;
1240
The wolf at all hours prowled in search of prey;
But not a trace of man, save when the chase
Brought savage hunters from the river’s marge,
The beautiful wooded vales of the Qu’Appelle,
Saskatchewan, and the streams subsidiary.
1245
The Indian’s doom should touch your heart. I’ve seen
Types disappear before. But kindness
On dying races, as on dying men [Page 57]
Should wait, and Canada may well be proud,
And England, too, of that just spirit which
1250
Has ruled her councils; these are things the gods
Do not forget.”
                            “I’d fear,” I said, “this seat
To hold in winter when wide snow shrouds all
The vasty plain. But once more, that’s the time
To watch from earth your car speed on. The snow
1255
In wind-made waves lies like a frozen sea,
And in their myriad hollows shadows cast,
Their clear-cut million-faceted backs agleam,
Light-darting, radiant in thy rosy smile;
The heaven a dappl’d glory. Soon the rim
1260
Of burning gold with radiating spears
Peeps up, then slowly sails in yellow seas
Of light, the full orb’d splendour whence
There runs across the white empurpled sea
Like fire, to the entrancèd gazer’s feet,
1265
A lane of silver fire, and all the plain
Compact of tiniest crystals flames with gems;
Diamonds and chrysolites bespangling blaze;
The frosty heavens high-up, gold-fretted, blue,
Save where some pearly clouds may westward rest,
1270
Which half an hour before were crimson round
Your wheels. The air the pulses stirs like fire
And life’s a joy!”
                            She smiled and said:—“Yes, cold
No doubt for mortal brow, the swift sharp air
Which up here whistles on my wintery way.
1275
I love myself to gaze upon those plains
When bright auroraborealian tints [Page 58]
Go flashing flame-wise o’er their snowy waves,
More gorgeous in their bright commingling hues
Than cunningest mystery of colours quaint
1280
In old cathedral windows, shedding gloried light
Thro’ pillar’d silent aisles. But lo! the sun
Comes on apace. We must not further pause.”

    The reins she shook, which flash’d like lightning bands,
And forward rushed those coursers wild, and wheels
1285
Of fire, and soon the snowy peaks of hills
So high, our horses’ airy feet might well
Have touch’d the topmost, were empurpled. Cones
Which rose at frequent intervals, grew pink
And red, white clefts and chasms fathom-deep
1290
Gloomed dark and dreadful. The eagle was awake
And wheel’d with sail-broad pinions strong, in search
Of quarry; back and wings to us seem’d like
Gilt bronze of antique armour worn by knights
Of old, on which flames out the light of fire
1295
In some baronial hall hung round with casques,
And breast-plates, shields, and shirts of mail and spears
Transverse; the founder of the house he glowers
Above the hearth huge as cathedral door.
The eagle’s shadow on the white peak’s side
1300
Was as the shade of some long-pointed cloud
When winds are veering.

                                  Now the Fraser gleam’d
Below, its benches white with apple trees
In bloom. ’Neath one an Indian stood, in hand
A tom-tom rude, on which he beat, the while [Page 59]

1305
He sang in sad tones looking towards the sea.
The children of his tribe impassive sat
And smoked their deep-bowl’d long-stemmed pipes.


            With spread wings for ever
                Time’s eagle careers,

1310

            His quarry old nations,
                His prey the young years;
            Into monuments brazen
                He strikes his fierce claw,
            And races are only

1315

                A sop for his maw.

            The red sun is rising
                Behind the dark pines,
            And the mountains are marked out
                In saffron lines,

1320

            The pale moon still lingers,
                But past is her hour
            Over mountain and river
                Her silver to shower.

            As yon moon disappeareth,

1325

                We pass and are past;
            The pale face o’er all things
                Is potent at last.
            He bores thro’ the mountains,
                He bridges the ford,

1330

            He bridles steam horses
                Where Bruin was lord, [Page 60]

            He summons the river
                Her wealth to unfold,
            From flint and from granite

1335

                He crushes the gold.

            Those valleys of silence
                Will soon be alive
            With huxters who chaffer,
                Prospectors who strive,

1340

            And the house of the pale face
                Will peer from the crest
            Of the cliff, where the eagle
                To-day builds his nest.

            The Red Skin he marred not

1345

                White fall on wild rill,
            But to-morrow those waters
                Will turn a mill;
            And the streamlet which flashes
                Like a young squaw’s dark eye,

1350

            Will be black with foul refuse,
                Or may be run dry.

            From the sea where the Father
                Of waters is lost,
            To the sea where all Summer

1355

                The ice-berg is tost,
            The white hordes will swarm
                And the white man will sway,
            And the smoke of his engine
                Makes swarthy the day. [Page 61]

1360


            Round the mound of a brother
                In sadness we pace,
            How much sadder to stand
                At the grave of a race!
            But the good Spirit knows

1365

                What for all is the best,
            And which should be chosen
                The strife or the rest.

            As for me, I’m time-weary,
                I await my release,

1370

            Give to others the struggle,
                Grant me but the peace,
            And what peace like the peace
                Which death offers the brave?
            What rest like the rest

1375

                Which we find in the grave?

            For the doom of the hunter
                There is no reprieve;
            And for me, ’mid strange customs,
                ’Tis bitter to live.

1380

            Our part has been played
                Let the white man play his;
            Then he too disappears,
                And goes down the abyss.
            Yes! Time’s eagle will prey

1385

                On the Pale Face at last,
            And his doom like our own
                Is to pass and be past. [Page 62]


He closed exultantly, in contrast strange
To mien and tone with which he had begun.
1390
The grandeur, gloom, and dread sublimity
Of this great river was soon left behind.
We passed o’er lucid streams whose sands are gold;
Inlets and gulfs whose beauty man can ne’er
Destroy; forests of mighty trees whose age
1395
You count by tens of centuries, and now
Reflecting many a shape—outlines too fair
For gross embodiment in flesh—young forms
Of tender beauty, robed in hues of heaven,
Attendant on that glory-scattering car,
1400
The rippleless ocean lay beneath us, bright;
No wrinkle on its vast and placid brow;
No cloud in view, and as we flew along
Deep voices from around the car poured forth
Sweet strains which o’er the ocean rolled and died
1405
In frozen whispers ’mid the polar seas.

    “This is the sea,” she said, “on which a bard
Might feel the inspiration of your empire,
And write an epic worthy of the race
Or races which have built it grandly up;
1410
For Kelt and Saxon, each has done his share;
By Kelt and Saxon, must it be maintained.
The Irish on a hundred battle fields,
In counsel by the spoken word, by toil,
Have play’d a great part in this work.
1415
They should have scope to bless their own green isle;
But shipwreck will attend their aims, unless
They merge them in a noble loyalty [Page 63]
To the great empire which is theirs no less
Than others? Poor wailing round old graves
1420
And cries for vengeance, show how deep all wrongs
Will strike, and hers were of the greatest: long
Continued, cruel, cold, calamitous
Injustice, poison’d with contempt and scorn
Engend’ring hate. But heroes do not waste
1425
Themselves upon the past—on dead things gone;
The present and the future, there’s their field.
Those isles are link’d by Fate; the people lords,
’Tis theirs to learn the cause of all is one,
Or from their wrangles, flames will shoot and wrap
1430
The edifice, and in the general blaze
Both crash in ruin. War to the idler, war
To all injustice, war to faction, war
To gilt corruption, war to agitation,
Its work once done, and love like fruitful heaven
1435
Spanning these lands, and then it will be seen
How much of greater greatness was within
The grasp of Britain than her past can show.
Your young Dominion, by imperial works
Worthy an ancient state, built up by one
1440
As yet in gristle, nobly aids the task,
And gives large promise of the mightier day.”

The ocean was now left behind—a breadth
Of light. A score of dusky nations old
We pass, then plunge beneath the engulphing waves.
1445
A rush of waters green and white—again
I closed my eyes to die, when she reach’d forth [Page 64]
Her hand with tapering fingers rosy-tipped
And touched me. Then, once more myself, I saw
Her steeds, unbreath’d, draw up, and how there flashed
1450
A sudden light o’er carven arch and door,
And sable towers and pillars glimmering fair;
And colonnades stretch’d darkling far away;
And in the distance, vistas dim were seen,
Like walks enchanted made for fairy feet;
1455
And there stood Twilight like a lingering ray,
And like a fantasy he went, and Eos,
A form of light, moved into shadowy halls,
And all the busy upper world was day.

And I awoke and turned my steps to where,
1460
A mile away on the monotonous plain,
The hammers rang on shingle roofs, and grew
Each hour the “city” of a few weeks old. [Page 65]