[This is the first half of a poem written by Susanna Moodie]
Oh ye! who all life’s energies combine
The fadeless laurel round your brows to twine,
Pause but one moment in your brief career,
Nor seek for glory in a mortal sphere.
Can figures traced upon the shifting sand
Washed by the mighty tide, its force withstand?
Time’s stern resistless torrent onward flows,
The restless waves above your labours close,
And He who bids the bounding billows roll
Sweeps out the feeble record from the soul.
The glorious hues that flush the evening sky
Melt into night, and on her bosom die;
Through the wide fields of heaven’s immensity
The gold-tipped billows of the crimson sea
Flash on the awe-struck gazer’s dazzled sight,
The rich out-gushings from the fount of light;
Yet oft, concealed beneath that splendid form,
We find the herald of the coming storm;
The fiery spirit over half a globe
Spreads the bright tissue of his beamy robe,
And, ere the day-king veils his glowing crest,
Shrouds the dark tempest in his burning vest;
O’er earth and heaven his gorgeous banner flings,
And gilds with borrowed light his sable wings –
And those who view with rapture-lifted eyes
The short-lived pageant of the summer skies,
Behold it vanish like a fearful dream,
And death and desolation mar its beam,
So when we seek above life’s sea of tears
To raise a monument for future years.
If built on earth the fabric will decay,
Oblivion’s hand will sweep the pile away;
The proudest trophies of the mightiest mind
Fade in her grasp, nor leave a wreck behind;
She o’er earth’s ruins spreads her misty pall,
And time’s unsparing ocean swallows all;
Hope for a moment gilds the spoiler’s shroud,
As parting sunbeams tinge the lucid cloud;
The transient glory cheats the gazer’s sight;
The storm rolls on – ’tis universal night
Say did not man inherit, at his birth,
A higher promise than the things of earth;
Views more exalted than this earth can give,
And hopes that, deathless as the soul, outlive
The wreck of nature, and the common doom
That hourly sweeps her myriads to the tomb?
His mental powers, unfettered by the clod,
Soar o’er time’s gulf, and reach the throne of God.
Oh what a privilege it is to know
That death claims not the immortal soul below!
Through the dark portals of the grave upborne,
Leaving the care-worn sons of earth to mourn,
On wings of light the newborn spirit flies
To seek a home and kindred in the skies.
Oh what are earthly crowns and earthly bliss,
And pride’s delusive dreams, compared with this?
Ambition’s laurel, purchased with a flood
Of human tears and stained with kindred blood.
Once gained, converted to a crown of thorns.
Pierces the aching temples it adorns –
Not Sappho’s lyre nor Raphael’s deathless art
Can twine the olive round the bleeding heart;
In heaven alone the promised blessing lies,
And those who seek – must seek it in the skies!
Seek it through Him who, humbling human pride,
Wept o’er man’s fall, and for his ransom died;
Poured out his blood on the accursed tree,
To break the chain and set the captive free.
Heaven bowed its glory on the cross to teach
That greatness man’s lost nature could not reach.
The true humility, which stoops to rise,
And, leaving earth, claims kindred with the skies.
How many pages have been blotted o’er
With heartfelt tears, that now are read no more;
And, like the eyes that long have ceased to weep,
In dust and darkness quite forgotten sleep!
Dead to the world as if they ne’er had been
The favoured actors in one little scene.
The scene is changed – and, like their fleeting-fame,
The fickle world adores another name.
They knew the price at which its fame was bought;
The glittering bauble was not worth a thought,
Yet, Esau-like, a better birthright sold,
And for base counterfeit exchanged the gold!
Ere man presumptuously his genius boasts,
Let him reflect upon the countless hosts,
The untold myriads, of each age and clime,
That sleep forgotten in the grave of time.
What were their names? Go ask the silent sod
Their deeds – their record lives but with their God!
At every step we tread on kindred earth,
Nor know the spot that gave our fathers birth.
Oh! could we call before our wondering eyes
All that have lived – and bid the dead arise,
From the first moment the Creator spoke
The word of power, and light through darkness broke,
And see earth covered with the mighty tide
Of all who on her bosom lived and died,
What a stupendous thought would fill the soul
Could we behold life’s breathing ocean roll
Its human billows onward – and this mass
The grave has swallowed, down from Adam, pass
In one unbroken stream – the brain would reel –
Lost in immensity, would cease to feel!
Whilst living, ah, how few were known to fame!
One in a million has not left a name, –
A single token, on life’s shifting scene,
To tell to other years that such has been.
Yet man, unaided by a hope sublime,
Thinks that his puny arm can cope with time;
That his vast genius can reverse the doom,
And shed a deathless light upon his tomb;
That distant ages shall his worth admire,
And young hearts kindle at the sacred fire
Of him whose fame no envious clouds o’ercast,
Yet died forgotten and unknown at last.