Ascent of Man, The - Part 6

VI.

Woe, woe to Man and all his hapless brood!
No rest for him, no peace is to be found;
He may have tamed wild beasts and made the ground
Yield corn and wine and every kind of food;
He may have turned the ocean to his steed,
Tutored the lightning's elemental speed
To flash his thought from Ætna to Atlantic;
He may have weighed the stars and spanned the stream,
And trained the fiery force of panting steam
To whirl him o'er vast steppes and heights gigantic:
But the storm-lashed world of feeling —
Love, the fount of tears unsealing,
Choruses of passion pealing —
Lust, ambition, hatred, awe,
Clashing loudly with the law,
But the phantasms of the mind
Who shall master, yea, who bind!

What help is there without, what hope within
Of rescue from the immemorial strife?
What will redeem him from the spasm of life,
With all its devious ways of shame and sin?
What will redeem him from ancestral greeds,
Grey legacies of hate and hoar misdeeds,
Which from the guilty past Man doth inherit —
The past that is bound up with him, and part
Of the pulsations of his inmost heart,
And of the vital motions of his spirit?
Ages mazed in tortuous errors,
Ghostly fears, and haunting terrors,
Minds bewitched that served as mirrors
For the foulest fancies bred
In a fasting hermit's head,
Such as cast a sickly blight
On all shapes of life and light.

Yea, panting and pursued and stung and driven,
The soul of Man flies on in deep distress,
As once across the world's harsh wilderness
Latona fled, chased by the Queen of heaven;
Flying across the homeless Universe
From the inveterate stroke of Juno's curse;
On whom even mother earth closed all her portals,
Refusing shelter in her cooing bowers,
Or rest upon her velvet couch of flowers,
To the most weary of all weary mortals.
Within whose earth-encumbered form,
Like two fair stars entwined in storm,
Or wings astir-within the worm,
Feeling out for light and air,
Struggled that celestial pair,
Phaebus of unerring bow,
And chaste Dian fair as snow.
Ah, who will harbour her? Ah, who will save
The fugitive from pangs that rack and tear;
Who, finding rest nor refuge anywhere,
Seems doomed to be her unborn offspring's grave;
The seed of Jove, murdered before their birth —
Did not the sea, more merciful than earth,
Bid Delos stand — that wandering isle of Ocean —
Stand motionless upon the moving foam,
To be the exile's wave-encircled home,
And lull her pains with leaves in drowsy motion,
Where the soft-boughed olive sighing
Bends above the woman lying
And in spasms of anguish crying,
Shuddering through her mortal frame,
As from dust is struck the flame
Which shall henceforth beam sublime
Through the firmament of Time?

Oh, balmy Island bedded on the brine,
Harbour of refuge on the tumbling seas,
The fabulous bowers of the Hesperides
Ne'er bore such blooming gold as glows in thine:
Thou green Oasis on the tides of Time
Where no rude blast disturbs the azure clime;
Thou Paradise whence man can ne'er be driven,
Where, severed from the world-clang and the roar,
Still in the flesh he yet may reach that shore
Where want is not, and, like the dew from heaven,
There drops upon the fevered soul
The balm of Thought's divine control
And rapt absorption in the whole:
Delivery in the realm of art
Of the world-racked human heart —
Forms and hues and sounds that make
Life grow lovelier for their sake.

By sheer persistence, strenuous and slow,
The marble yields and, line by flowing line
And curve by curve, begins to swell and shine
Beneath the ring of each far-sighted blow;
Until the formless block obeys the hand,
And at the mastering mind's supreme command
Takes form and radiates from each limb and feature
Such beauty as ne'er bloomed in mortal mould,
Whose face, out-smiling centuries, shall hold
Perfection's mirror up to 'prentice nature,
Not from out voluptuous ocean
Venus rose in balanced motion,
Goddess of all bland emotion;
But she leaped a shape of light,
Radiating love's delight,
From the sculptor's brain to be
Sphered in immortality.

New spirit-yearnings for a heavenlier mood
Call for a love more pitiful and tender,
And 'neath the painter's touch blooms forth in splendour
The image of transfigured motherhood.
All hopes of all glad women who have smiled
In adoration on their first-born child
Here smile through one glad woman made immortal,
All tears of all sad women through whose heart
Has pierced the edge of sorrow's sevenfold dart
Lie weeping with her at death's dolorous portal.
For in married hues whose splendour
Bodies forth the gloom and grandeur
Of life's pageant, tragic, tender,
Common things transfigured flush
By the magic of the brush,
As when sun-touched raindrops glow,
Blent in one harmonious bow.

But see, he comes, Lord of life's changeful shows,
To whom the ways of Nature are laid bare,
Who looks on heaven and makes the heavens more fair,
And adds new sweetness to the perfumed rose;
Who can unseal the heart with all its tears,
Marshal loves, hates, hopes, sorrows, joys, and fears
In quick procession o'er the passive pages;
Who has given tongue to silent generations
And wings to thought, so that long-mouldered nations
May call to nations o'er the abyss of ages:
The poet, in whose shaping brain
Life is created o'er again
With loftier raptures, loftier pain;
Whose mighty potencies of verse
Move through the plastic Universe,
And fashion to their strenuous will
The world that is creating still.

Do you hear it, do you hear it
Soaring up to heaven, or somewhere near it?
From the depths of life upheaving,
Clouds of earth and sorrow cleaving,
From despair and death retrieving,
All triumphant blasts of sound
Lift you at one rhythmic bound
From the thraldom of the ground.

*****

All the sweetness which the glowing
Violets waft to west winds blowing,
All the burning love-notes aching,
Rills and thrills of rapture shaking
Through the hearts that throb to breaking
Of the little nightingales;
Mellow murmuring waters streaming
Lakeward in long silver trails,
Crooning low while earth lies dreaming
To the moonlight-tangled vales;
Swish of rain on half-blown roses-
Hoarding close their rich perfume,
Which the summer dawn uncloses
Sparkling in their morning bloom;
Convent peals o'er pastoral meadows,
Swinging through hay-scented air
When the velvet-footed shadows
Call the hind to evening prayer.
Yea, all notes of woods and highlands;
Sea-fowls' screech round sphinx-like islands
Couched among the Hebrides;
Cuckoo calls through April showers,
When the green fields froth with flowers
And with bloom the orchard trees.
Boom of surges with their hollow
Refluent shock from cave to cave,
As the maddening spring tides follow
Moonstruck reeling wave o'er wave.
Yea; all rhythms of air and ocean
Married to the heart's emotion,
To the intervolved emotion
Of the heart for ever turning
In a whirl of bliss and pain,
Blending in symphonious strain
All the vague, unearthly yearning
Of the visionary brain.

*****

All life's discords sweetly blending,
Heights on heights of being ascending,
Harmonies of confluent sound
Lift you at one rhythmic bound
From the thraldom of the ground,
Loosen all your bonds of birth,
Clogs of sense and weights of earth,
Bear you in angelic legions
High above terrestrial regions.
Into ampler ether, where
Spirits breathe a finer air,
Where upon world altitudes
God-intoxicated moods
Fill you with beatitudes;
Till no longer cramped and bound
By the narrow human round,
All the body's barriers slide,
Which with cold obstruction hide
The supreme, undying, sole
Spirit struggling through the whole,
And no more a thing apart
From the universal heart
Liberated by the grace
Of man's genius for a space,
Human lives dissolve, enlace
In a flaming world embrace.
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