The Burden of Time
Before the seas and mountains were brought forth,
I reigned. I hung the universe in space,
I capped earth's poles with ice to South and North,
And set the moving tides their bounds and place.
I smoothed the granite mountains with my hand,
My fingers gave the continents their form;
I rent the heavens and loosed upon the land
The fury of the whirlwind and the storm.
I stretched the dark sea like a nether sky
Fronting the stars between the ice-clad zones;
I gave the deep his thunder; the Most High
Knows well the voice that shakes His mountain thrones.
I trod the ocean caverns black as night,
And silent as the bounds of outer space,
And where great peaks rose darkly towards the light
I planted life to root and grow apace.
Then through a stillness deeper than the grave's,
The coral spires rose slowly one by one,
Until the white shafts pierced the upper waves
And shone like silver in the tropic sun.
I ploughed with glaciers down the mountain glen,
And graved the iron shore with stream and tide;
I gave the bird her nest, the lion his den,
The snake long jung~le-grass wherein to hide.
In lonely gorge and over hill and plain,
I sowed the giant forests of the world;
The great earth like a human heart in pain
Has quivered with the meteors I have hurled.
I plunged whole continents beneath the deep,
And left them sepulchred a million years;
I called, and lo, the drowned lands rose from sleep,
Sundering the waters of the hemispheres.
I am the lord and arbiter of man --
I hold and crush between my finger-tips
Wild hordes that drive the desert caravan,
Great nations that go down to sea in ships.
In sovereign scorn I tread the races down,
As each its puny destiny fulfils,
On plain and island, or where huge cliffs frown,
Wrapt in the deep thought of the ancient hills.
The wild sea searches vainly round the land
For those proud fleets my arm has swept away;
Vainly the wind along the desert sand
Calls the great names of kings who once held sway.
Yea, Nineveh and Babylon the great
Are fallen -- like ripe ears at harvest-tide;
I set my heel upon their pomp and state,
The people's serfdom and the monarch's pride.
One doom waits all -- art, speech, law, gods, and men,
Forests and mountains, stars and shining sun, --
The hand that made them shall unmake again,
I curse them and they wither one by one.
Waste altars, tombs, dead cities where men trod,
Shall roll through space upon the darkened globe,
Till I myself be overthrown, and God
Cast off creation like an outworn robe.
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