The Dream of Man

To the eye and the ear of the Dreamer
This Dream out of darkness flew,
Through the horn or the ivory portal,
But 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 steps 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,
Tempest and flood and fire,
The spleen of fickle seasons
That loved to baulk his desire,
The breath of hostile climates,
The ravage of blight and dearth,
The old unrest that vexes
The heart of the moody earth,
The genii swift and radiant
Sabreing heaven with flame,
He, with a keener weapon,
The sword of his wit, overcame.
Disease and her ravening offspring,
Pain with the thousand teeth,
He drave into night primeval,
The nethermost worlds beneath,
Till the Lord of Death, the undying,
Ev'n Asraël the King,
No more with Furies for heralds
Came armed with scourge and sting,
But gentle of voice and of visage,
By calm Age ushered and led,
A guest, serenely featured,
Entering, woke no dread.
And, as the rolling æons
Retreated with pomp of sound,
Man's spirit, grown too lordly
For this mean orb to bound,
By arts in his youth undreamed of
His terrene fetters broke,
With enterprise ethereal
Spurning the natal yoke,
And, stung with divine ambition,
And fired with a glorious greed,
He annexed the stars and the 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 an odour 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 eastward toward time's sunrise.'
And, age upon age untold,
The Spirit of Man saw clearly
The Past as a chart out-rolled,-
Beheld his base beginnings
In the depths of time, 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 westward turn;
And the Spirit of Man obeying
Beheld as a chart out-rolled
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;
''Tis false, 'tis a lying vision,'
In the face of his God he cried.
'Thou thinkest to daunt me with shadows;
Not such as Thou feign'st is my doom:
From glory to rise unto glory
Is mine, who have risen from gloom.
I doubt if Thou knew'st at my making<
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William Watson

William Watson, was a surgeon in the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers during the American Civil War. more…

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"The Dream of Man" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 1 Apr. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/42027/the-dream-of-man>.

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