George Essex Evans
Ad Astra - Poem by George Essex Evans
Weary was I of Earth. My body lay,
Its fires turned down and slaked to faintest heat.
My soul went out into the night away
Where wing hath never beat.
The green earth like a marble ’neath me spun;
The shoreless ether and the island-stars
Rose up before, and sun and mightier sun
Flamed on their chariot bars,
Cleaving the blue abysmal without sound,
Pressed on my soul I felt the awful seals
Of that vast Cosmos without depth or bound,
Blazing with golden wheels.
I marked Orion’s armour glitter cold,
Where o’er dark bars the milk-white river runs;
I marked great Sirius flood the heavens with gold,
The sovran of the suns.
All stars grew dim, all suns turned sullen red,
Waned, and went out in that victorious light—
Heaven’s mightiest star swung on a viewless thread
His mightiest satellite.
And like some storm-tossed pilgrim of the sea,
Who sights the loom of unknown shores afar,
I felt the challenge and the mystery
Of that majestic star.
The giant planet in the golden stream
Turned all her massy bulk against the glow,
I watched her storm-blue mountain-turrets gleam
Crowned with unconquered snow;
And all her table-lands and wooded leas,
And emerald plains through which clear rivers run,
And all the foam crests of her plunging seas
That shout unto the sun;
And all her marble cities and her towers
That climb the hill or shine through deepmost brakes,
And all her velvet valleys, rich with flowers,
And all her silver lakes;
And, lastly, with a strange new majesty,
The face of man did pass before me there,
King of the Earth, and Victor of the Sea,
And Lord of all the Air;
Whose fleets have lit the caverns of the deep,
Whose wings have breasted all the winds that blow,
And flashed his signal from his airy keep
To worlds above, below.
On the faint limit of the air to north,
On utmost marge of that gigantic girth,
The grey-haired Warden of the sky looked forth
And called: “What news of earth?”
“Ah, woe is me!” I said, “that I should bring
To this fair orb the shadow of my pain;
The earth is full of toil and suffering,
And the fierce lust of gain.
“The earth is full of travail and unrest,
And hearts grown old and weary ere their time,
And shameful yokes upon men’s necks are prest
That some may ride sublime.
“They love the foot that spurns them. Let them be
Slaves to a conquering name or flattering breath.
Heroes have sought to teach them to be free,
And their reward was death.
“The salt of earth—the blood that loved them best,
Out of the ground it cries that all may hear,
From the dark cross on sullen Calvary’s crest
To Bruno’s flaming bier.
“They gave to Socrates the poisoned bowl,
They closed Hypatia’s noble eyes with fire,
They drove proud Dante forth, an exiled soul,
Reft of his heart’s desire;
“The Spaniard laid an Empire at their feet
And died despised. In chains Italia’s sage,
Great Galileo, at their judgment seat
Knelt in his hoary age.
“The cell, the cross, the gibbet, and the chain—
Thus have ye crowned, O World, your mighty sons!
The Earth is drunken with the blood and pain
Of all her noblest ones.”
Then answered he, and o’er his face there shone
A sudden rapture, as the lightning breath
Of some strong thought that quickens and is gone,
Yet bids us smile on death.
“By what strange guidance of the Central Powers
Thy soul draws near I know not, but I know
All that has crowned with joy this world of ours
Was won through bitter woe.
“Out of the hearts’ blood of the hero few,
Out of the lonely strength that scorned to flee,
Out of the sorrow of the souls that knew,
We made the world you see.
“We, too, have swung the mighty orbit round,
Chained by the toils that hold ye bound to-day,
When all men’s eyes were fixed upon the ground,
And no man saw the way.
“Yet was the germ within us, and the power
Of that great Unseen Truth to which we draw,
That from the seed may come the perfect flower
To crown the perfect law.
“The white suns sail the waveless seas of Space,
Where once their bulk was but a starry flow,
Down the long curves each System keeps its place
Around some mightier glow.
“From less to greater, through the scale of change,
All things ascend in their appointed time.
Who shall adjudge to Man the utmost range
His thoughts may climb!”
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