The Dream of Man

To the eye and the ear of the Dreamer, this Dream out of darkness flew,
Through the gates of Truth or of Falsehood — he wist not which of the two.

It was the Human Spirit, of all men's souls the Soul,
Man the unwearied climber, that climbed to the unknown goal.
And up the stairs of the ages, the difficult, steep ascent,
Man, the unwearied climber, pauseless and dauntless went.
Æons rolled behind him with thunder of far retreat,
And still as he strove he conquered, and laid his foes at his feet.
Inimical powers of Nature, whirlwind and flood and fire,
The spleen of fickle seasons that loved to baulk his desire,
The breath of climates hostile, the ravage of blight and dearth,
The moody unrest that vexes the heart of the sleepless earth,
The tramp of the hooves of tempest on valley and golden plain,
The host whose sire is corruption, whose seed is venom and bane,
What powers soever are watchful to harass him or withstand,
He made them meek in his service and ductile to his hand.

That thing of a thousand talons, fierce Pain that none may assuage,
He drove into Night primeval, to flee from its own red rage,
Till Death, the lurker, the crouch'd one, the hateful Father of Fear,
No more with Furies for heralds came armed with dart and spear,
But gentle of voice and of visage, by calm Age ushered and led,
A guest, serenely featured, entering, woke no dread.

And now, as the rolling aeons retreated with pomp of sound,
His spirit became too lordly for an orb like ours to bound.
By arts in his youth undreamed of his fetters terrene he broke,
With enterprise ethereal disdaining the natal yoke,
And, stung with divine ambition, and fired with a glorious greed,
He annexed the uncolonized planets and peopled them with his seed.

Then said he: " The infinite Scripture I have read and interpreted clear,
And searching all worlds I have found not my sovereign or my peer.
In what room of the palace of Nature resides the invisible God?
For all her doors I have opened, and all her floors I have trod.
If greater than I be her tenant, let him answer my challenging call:
Till then I admit no rival, but crown myself master of all. "

And forth as that word went bruited, by Man unto Man were raised
Fanes of devout self-homage, where he who praised was the praised;
And from vast unto vast of creation the new evangel ran,
And a savour of world-wide incense went up from Man unto Man;
Until, on a solemn feast-day, when the world's usurping lord
At a million impious altars his own proud image adored,
God spake as He stept from His ambush: " O great in thine own conceit,
I will show thee thy source, how humble, thy goal, for a god how unmeet. "

Thereat, by the word of the Maker the Spirit of Man was led
To a mighty peak of vision, where God to His creature said:
" Look yonder toward Time's sunrise. " And, age upon age untold,
The Spirit of Man saw clearly the Past as a chart outrolled —
Beheld his base beginnings, in the Earth's dim dawn, and his strife
With beasts and crawling horrors, for leave to live, when life
Meant but to slay and to procreate, to feed and to sleep, among
Mere mouths, voracities boundless, blind lusts, desires without tongue,
And ferocities vast, fulfilling their being's malignant law,
While Nature was one hunger and one hate, all fangs and maw.

With that, for a single moment, abashed at his own descent,
In humbleness Man's Spirit at the feet of the Maker bent;
But, swifter than light, he recovered the stature and pose of his pride,
And, " Think not thus to shame me with my mean birth, " he cried.
" This is my loftiest greatness, to have been born so low;
Greater than Thou the Ungrowing am I that for ever grow. "
And God forbore to rebuke him, but answered brief and stern,
Bidding him toward Time's sunset his vision forth-with turn;
And the Spirit of Man obeying beheld as a chart outrolled
The likeness and form of the Future, age upon age untold;
Beheld his own meridian, and beheld his dark decline,
His secular fall to nadir from summits of light divine,
Till at last, amid worlds exhausted, and bankrupt of force and fire,
'Twas his, in a torrent of darkness, like a sputtering lamp to expire.

Then a war of shame and anger did the realm of his soul divide.
" I believe not the mocking vision, " in the presence of God he cried.
" Thou thinkest to daunt me with shadows; not such as Thou feign'st, my doom.
From glory to rise unto glory is mine who am risen from gloom.
With spoil of Thy captured secrets already my ways are strown.
I doubt if Thou knew'st at my making how near I should climb to Thy throne.
Nor shall I look backward or rest me, till the uttermost heights I have trod,
And am equalled with Thee or above Thee, the mate or the master of God. "

Ev'n thus Man turned from the Maker, with thundered defiance wild,
And God with a terrible silence reproved the speech of His child.
And Man returned to his labours, and stiffened the neck of his will;
And aeons rolled unto aeons, and his power was crescent still.
But yet there remained to conquer one foe, and the greatest — although
Despoiled of his ancient terrors, at heart, as of old, a foe,
Who steals to the bower from the charnel, and winnows the world with his wing,
And is lord both of feast and of bride-bed — Death, the Spectre-King.

And lo, Man mustered his forces the war of wars to wage,
And with storm and thunder of onset did the foe of foes engage,
And the Lord of Death, the undying, was beset and harried sore,
In his immemorial fastness at night's aboriginal core.
And Man, during years ten thousand, beleaguered his enemy's hold,
While Nature was one dread tremor, and the heart of the world waxed cold,
Till the phantom battlements wavered, and the ghostly fort 'gan sway,
And the King of the Grave, a captive, in bondage, un-fled-from, lay.

And unto each star in the heavens the jubilant word was blown,
The annunciation tremendous, Death is overthrown!
And Life in her ultimate borders prolonged the exultant tone,
With hollow ingeminations: Death is overthrown!
And God in His house of silence, where He dwelleth aloof, alone,
Paused in His tasks to hearken: Death is overthrown!
Then a solemn and high thanksgiving by Man unto Man was sung,
In his temples of self-adoration, with his own multitudinous tongue;
And he said to his Soul: " Rejoice thou, for thy last great foe lies bound —
Unmaker of all, and despoiler — unmade, despoiled, discrowned. "

And behold, his Soul rejoiced not, for the breath of her being was strife,
And life that had nothing to vanquish was but as the shadow of life.
No goal invited and promised, and divinely provocative shone;
And Fear having fled, her sister, blest Hope, in her train was gone;
And the coping and crown of achievement was hell than defeat more dire —
The torment of all-things-compassed, the plague of nought-to-desire;
And Man the invincible queller, man with his foot on his foes,
In boundless satiety hungered, restless from utter repose,
Mighty o'ercomer of Nature, subduer of Death in his lair,
By mightier weariness vanquished, and crowned with august despair.

Then, throned at his dreadful zenith, he cried unto God: " O Thou
Whom erst in the days of striving methought that I needed not — now
In this my abject glory, my hopeless and helpless might,
Hearken and cheer and succour! " and God from His lonelier height,
From eternity's passionless summits, on suppliant Man looked down,
And His brow waxed human with pity, belying its awesome crown.
" Thy richest possession, " He answered, " blest Hope, will I restore,
And the wealth of weakness, the mantle thy strength o'er its armour wore:
And I will arouse from slumber, in his hold where bound he lies,
Thine enemy most benefic: O King of the Grave, arise! "
Then a sound like the heart of Nature in sunder cloven and torn
Announced, to the ear universal, undying Death new-born.
And ev'n as a hunter, awakened in a forest all sere and brown,
Shakes lightly the leaves from his raiment, so Death his bonds shook down.

And Deity paused and hearkened, then turned to the undivine,
And said: " O Man, My creature, thy lot was more blest than Mine.
I taste not delight of seeking, nor the rapture of wondering know,
For these are the blisses ecstatic, that I hoard not but bestow; —
The joys surpassing possession, that I gave without stint to thee,
Who flungest them forth untreasured, like pearl tost back to the sea. "
Thus, to the soul of the Dreamer, this dream came flying amain,
Through the gates of Truth or of Falsehood, but he kenned not which of the twain.
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