The Modern Atlas (poem)
Like a god whose vitals grind in utter woe,
In utter woe a godlike giant, grieves and groans;
Upon his brow the broods of horror glower and glow,
And Torment strikes her flaming fingers to his bones.
Crushed he creeps beneath the burden of a world,
Crushed lie gropes his way athwart the black wold’s gloom,
Like a shattered soul to ceaseless torture hurled
By the hand of heartless doom.
* * *
Day is night and night is day upon the dark
Night-blotted tablets of’his senses which receive
No lone spark of light by day nor rest to mark
When the wings of night enfold the face of eve.
Dark he creeps where neither rest nor light are giv’n,
Tho’ his broad hands spread the bed of death and birth,
Tho’ his fingers shake the living light of heav’n
Through the dark ways of the earth.
* * *
Where his feet press fountains start of wimpling wine,
Where his hands touch earth heaves up her heart to feed,
Yet the face of famine fronts him on the vine,
And the fruitage of his anguish mocks his need—
Tho’ his sinews wear to wealth, his breath to bread,
Tho’ his heart beat out its passion at the well,
Tho’ the harvest of his strength the field, full fed,
Choke with surfeit fair but fell.
* * *
The sweet joy of life around him and above
Breaks from breasts that burst in gladsome-throated glee :
Theme of thrush and lilt of lark and call of dove,
And languid lure of softer-singing, sweeter sea.
Men and maids who know not labour eye and ear
Glut with sensuous sight and sound as sweets that cloy ;
And the ruin of their pleasure heaps the bier
Of the giant’s death-struck joy.
* * *
Is there, naught in all his timeless, placeless round
That may give again his unlit sockets light ?
Is there ‘n aught in heaven or earth of sight or sound
For his beacon on the barren wold of night ?
Must he stumble on to chaos at the wall
That his own hands raise around him as a rim
Of fell famine-seeded fruit, and fainting fall,
And the whole world fall with him?
* * *
Nay ! Afar a red star climbs the stair of night,
All red-litten by the under-dawning day ;
See ! it feeds his heart with hope and gives him sight,
And his glad eyes gleam with increase of its ray.
Lo ! it writes, red-fingered, on the night’s dark face
Words that soon shall be the giant’s crowning hymn—
That the joy that lives by Labour’s boundless grace
Yet shall live alone in him.
A. E. JACOMB