ONCE more this Autumn-earth is ripe,
Parturient of another type.
While with the Past old nations merge
His foot is on the Future’s verge.
They watch him, as they huddle, pent,
Striding a spacious continent,
Above the level desert’s marge
Looming in his aloofness large.
No flower with fragile sweetness graced—
A lank weed wrestling with the waste;
Pallid of face and gaunt of limb,
The sweetness withered out of him;
Sombre, indomitable, wan,
The juices dried, the glad youth gone.
A little weary from his birth,
His laugh the spectre of a mirth,
Bitter beneath a bitter sky,
To Nature he has no reply.
Wanton, perhaps, and cruel. Yes,
Is not his sun more merciless?
So drab and neutral is his day,
He finds a splendour in the grey,
And from his life’s monotony
He draws a dreary melody.
When earth so poor a banquet makes
His pleasures at a gulp he takes;
The feast is his to the last crumb:
Drink while he can…the drought will come.
His heart a sudden tropic flower,
He loves and loathes within an hour.
Yet you who by the pools abide,
Judge not the man who swerves aside;
He sees beyond your hazy fears;
He roads the desert of the years;
Rearing his cities in the sand,
He builds where even God has banned;
With green a continent he crowns,
And stars a wilderness with towns;
With paths the distances he snares;
His gyves of steel the great plain wears.
A child who takes a world for toy,
To build a nation or destroy,
His childish features frozen stern,
His manhood’s task he has to learn—
From feeble tribes to federate
One white and peace-encompassed State.
But if there be no goal to reach?…
The track lies open, dawns beseech!
Enough that he lay down his load
A little farther on the road.
So, toward undreamt-of destinies
He slouches down the centuries.