The Hope of the World


H IGHER than heaven they sit,
Life and her consort Law;
And One whose countenance lit
In mine more perfect awe,
Fain had I deemed their peer,
Beside them throned above:
Ev'n him who casts out fear,
Unconquerable Love.
Ah, 'twas on earth alone that I his beauty saw.


On earth, in homes of men,
In hearts that crave and die.
Dwells he not also, then,
With Godhead, throned on high?
This and but this I know:
His face I see not there:
Here find I him below,
Nor find him otherwhere;
Born of an aching world, Pain's bridegroom, Death's ally.


Did Heaven vouchsafe some sign
That through all Nature's frame
Boundless ascent benign
Is everywhere her aim,
Such as man hopes it here,
Where he from beasts hath risen —
Then might I read full clear,
Ev'n in my sensual prison,
That Life and Law and Love are one symphonious name.


Such sign hath Heaven yet lent?
Nay, on this earth, are we
So sure 'tis real ascent
And very gain we see?
'Gainst Evil striving still,
Some spoils of war we wrest:
Not to discover Ill
Were haply state as blest.
We vaunt, o'er doubtful foes, a dubious victory.


In cave and bosky dene
Of old there crept and ran
The gibbering form obscene
That was and was not man.
The desert beasts went by
In fairer covering clad;
More speculative eye
The couchant lion had,
And goodlier speech the birds, than we when we began.


Was it some random throw
Of heedless Nature's die,
That from estate so low
Uplifted man so high?
Through untold aeons vast
She let him lurk and cower:
'Twould seem he climbed at last
In mere fortuitous hour,
Child of a thousand chances 'neath the indifferent sky.


A soul so long deferred
In his blind brain he bore,
It might have slept unstirred
Ten million noontides more.
Yea, round him Darkness might
Till now her folds have drawn,
O'er that enormous night
So casual came the dawn,
Such hues of hap and hazard Man's Emergence wore!


If, then, our rise from gloom
Hath this capricious air,
What ground is mine-to assume
An upward process there ,
In yonder worlds that shine
From alien tracts of sky?
Nor ground to assume is mine
Nor warrant to deny.
Equal, my source of hope, my reason for despair.


And though within me here
Hope lingers unsubdued,
'Tis because airiest cheer
Suffices for her food!
As some adventurous flower,
On savage crag-side grown,
Seems nourished hour by hour
From its wild self alone,
So lives inveterate Hope, on her own hardihood.


She tells me, whispering low:
" Wherefore and whence thou wast,
Thou shalt behold and know
When the Great Bridge is crossed.
For not in mockery He
Thy gift of wondering gave,
Nor bade thine answer be
The blank stare of the grave.
Thou shalt behold and know: and find again thy lost. "


With rapt eyes fixed afar,
She tells me: " Throughout Space,
Godward each peopled star
Runs with thy Earth a race.
Wouldst have the goal so nigh,
The course so smooth a field,
That Triumph should thereby
One half its glory yield?
And can Life's pyramid soar all apex and no base? "


She saith: " Old dragons lie
In bowers of pleasance curled;
And dost thou ask me why?
It is a Wizard's world!
Enchanted princes these,
Who yet their scales shall cast,
And through his sorceries
Die into kings at last.
Ambushed in Winter's heart the rose of June is furled. "


Such are the tales she tells:
Who trusts, the happier he:
But nought of virtue dwells
In that felicity!
I think the harder feat
Were his who should withstand
A voice so passing sweet,
And so profuse a hand. —
Hope, I forgo the wealth thou fling'st abroad so free!


Carry thy largess hence,
Light Giver! Let me learn
To abjure the opulence
I have done nought to earn;
And on this world no more
To cast ignoble slight,
Counting it but the door
Of other worlds more bright.
Here, where I fail or conquer, here is my concern:


Here, where perhaps alone
I conquer or I fail.
Here, o'er the dark Deep blown,
I ask no perfumed gale;
I ask the unpampering breath
That fits me to endure
Chance, and victorious Death,
Life, and my doom obscure,
Who know not whence I am sped, nor to what port I sail.
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