White-haired and hoary-bearded, who art thou
That speedest on, albeit bent with age,
Even as a youth that followeth after dreams?
Whence are thy feet, and whither trends thy way?
Stayed not his hurried steps, but as he passed
His low, hoarse answer fell upon the wind:
"Go thou and question yonder mountain-peaks;
Go thou and ask the hoary-heaving main;
Nay, if thou wilt, the great, globed, silent stars
That sail innumerable the shoreless sea,
And let the eldest answer if he may.
Lo the unnumbered myriad, myriad worlds
Rolling around innumerable suns,
Through all the boundless, bottomless abyss,
Are but as grains of sand upwhirled and flung
By roaring winds and scattered on the sea.
I have beheld them and my hand hath sown.
"Far-twinkling faint through dim, immeasured depths,
Behold Alcyone a grander sun.
Round him thy solar orb with all his brood
Glimmering revolves. Lo from yon mightier sphere
Light, flying faster than the thoughts of men,
Swift as the lightnings cleave the glowering storm,
Shot on and on through dim, ethereal space,
Ere yet it touched thy little orb of Earth,
Five hundred cycles of thy world and more.
Round him thy Sun, obedient to his power,
Thrice tenfold swifter than the swiftest wing,
His æon-orbit, million-yeared and vast,
Wheels through the void. Him flaming I beheld
When first he flashed from out his central fire
A mightier orb beyond thine utmost ken.
Round upon round innumerable hath swung
Thy sun upon his circuit; grander still
His vaster orbit far Alcyone
Wheels and obeys the mightier orb unseen.
"Seest thou yon star-paved pathway like an arch
Athwart thy welkin? wondrous zone of stars,
Dim in the distance circling one huge sun,
To whom thy sun is but a spark of fire
To whom thine Earth is but a grain of dust:
Glimmering around him myriad suns revolve
And worlds innumerable as sea-beach sands.
Ere on yon Via Lactea rolled one star
Lo I was there and trode the mighty round;
Yea, ere the central orb was fired and hung
A lamp to light the chaos. Star on star,
System on system, myriad worlds on worlds,
Beyond the utmost reach of mortal ken,
Beyond the utmost flight of mortal dream,
Yet have mine eyes beheld the birth of all.
But whence I am I know not. We are three
Known, yet unknown unfathomable to man,
Time, Space, and Matter pregnant with all life,
Immortals older than the oldest orb.
We were and are forever: out of us
Are all things suns and satellites, midge and man.
Worlds wax and wane, suns flame and glow and die;
Through shoreless space their scattered ashes float,
Unite, cohere, and wax to worlds again,
Changing, yet changless new, but ever old
No atom lost and not one atom gained,
Though fire to vapor melt the adamant,
Or feldspar fall in drops of summer rain.
And in the atoms sleep the germs of life,
Myriad and multiform and marvelous,
Throughout all vast, immeasurable space,
In every grain of dust, in every drop
Of water, waiting but the thermal touch.
Yea, in the womb of nature slumber still
Wonders undreamed and forms beyond compare,
Minds that will cleave the chaos and unwind
The web of fate, and from the atom trace
The worlds, the suns, the universal law:
And from the law, the Master; yea, and read
On yon grand starry scroll the Master's will."
Yea, but what Master? Lift the veil, O Time!
Where lie the bounds of Space and whither dwells
The Power unseen the infinite Unknown?
Faint from afar the solemn answer fell:
"Æon on æon, cycles myriad-yeared,
Swifter than light out-flashing from the suns,
My flying feet have sought the bounds of space
And found not, nor the infinite Unknown.
I see the Master only in his work:
I see the Ruler only in his law:
Time hath not touched the great All-father's throne,
Whose voice unheard the Universe obeys,
Who breathes upon the deep and worlds are born.
Worlds wax and wane, suns crumble into dust,
But matter pregnant with immortal life,
Since erst the white-haired centuries wheeled the vast,
Hath lost nor gained. Who made it, and who made
The Maker? Out of nothing, nothing. Lo
The worm that crawls from out the sun-touched sand,
What knows he of the huge, round, rolling Earth?
Yet more than thou of all the vast Beyond,
Or ever wilt. Content thee; let it be:
Know only this there is a Power unknown
Master of life and Maker of the worlds."