Daniel

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

Down into the darkness at last, Daniel, down into the darkness at last;
Laid in the lap of our Mother, Daniel, sleeping the dreamless sleep,
Sleeping the sleep of the babe unborn the pure and the perfect rest:
Aye, and is it not better than this fitful fever and pain?
Aye, and is it not better, if only the dead soul knew?

Joy was there in the spring-time and hope like a blossoming rose,
When the wine-blood of youth ran tingling and throbbing in every vein;
Chirrup of robin and blue-bird in the white-blossomed apple and pear;
Carpets of green on the meadows spangled with dandelions;
Lowing of kine in the valleys, bleating of lambs on the hills;
Babble of brooks and the prattle of fountains that flashed in the sun;
Glad, merry voices, ripples of laughter, snatches of music and song,
And blue-eyed girls in the gardens that blushed like the roses they wore.

And life was a pleasure unvexed, unmingled with sorrow and pain?
A round of delight from the blink of morn till the moon rose laughing at night?
Nay, there were cares and cankers envy and hunger and hate;
Death and disease in the pith of the limbs, in the root and the bud and the branch;
Dry-rot, alas, at the heart, and a canker-worm gnawing therein.

The summer of life came on with its heat and its struggle and toil,
Sweat of the brow and the soul, throbbing of muscle and brain,
Toil and moil and grapple with Fortune clutched as she flew
Only a shred of her robe, and a brave heart baffled and bowed!
Stern-visaged Fate with a hand of iron uplifted to fell;
The secret stab of a friend that stung like the sting of an asp,
Wringing red drops from the soul and a stifled moan of despair;
The loose lips of gossip and then a storm of slander and lies,
Till Justice was blind as a bat and deaf to the cries of the just,
And Mercy, wrapped up in her robe, stood by like a statue in stone.

Sear autumn followed the summer with frost and the falling of leaves
And red-ripe apples that blushed on the hills in the orchard of peace:
Red-ripe apples, alas, with worms writhing down to the core,
Apples of ashes and fungus that fell into rot at a touch;
Clusters of grapes in the garden blighted and sour on the vines;
Wheat-fields that waved in the valley and promised a harvest of gold,
Thrashing but chaff and weevil or cockle and shriveled cheat.
Fair was the promise of spring-time; the harvest a harvest of lies:
Fair was the promise of summer with Fortune clutched by the robe;
Fair was the promise of autumn a hollow harlot in red,
A withered rose at her girdle and the thorns of the rose in her hand.

Down into the darkness at last, Daniel, down into the darkness at last;
Laid in the lap of our Mother, Daniel, sleeping the dreamless sleep
Sleeping the sleep of the babe unborn the pure and the perfect rest:
Aye, and is it not better than this fitful fever and pain?
Aye, and is it not better, if only the dead soul knew?
Dead Ashes, what do you care if it storm, if it shine, if it shower?
Hail-storm, tornado or tempest, or the blinding blizzard of snow,
Or the mid-May showers on the blossoms with the glad sun blinking between,
Dead Ashes, what do you care? they break not the sleep of the dead.

Proud stands the ship to the sea, fair breezes belly her sails;
Strong masted, stanch in her shrouds, stanch in her beams and her bones;
Bound for Hesperian isles for the isles of the plantain and palm,
Hope walks her deck with a smile and Confidence stands at the helm;
Proudly she turns to the sea and walks like a queen on the waves.
Caught in the grasp of the tempest, lashed by the fiends of the storm,
Torn into shreds are her sails, tumbled her masts to the main;
Rudderless, rolling she drives and groans in the grasp of the sea;
Harbor or hope there is none; she goes to her grave in the brine:
Dead in the fathomless slime lie the bones of the ship and her crew.
Such was the promise of life; so is the promise fulfilled.

Down into the darkness at last, Daniel, down into the darkness at last;
Laid in the lap of our Mother, Daniel, sleeping the dreamless sleep,
Sleeping the sleep of the babe unborn the pure and the perfect rest:
Aye, and is it not better than this fitful fever and pain?
Aye, and is it not better, if only the dead soul knew?
Over your grave the tempest may roar or the zephyr sigh;
Over your grave the blue-bells may blink or the snow-drifts whirl,
Dead Ashes, what do you care? they break not the sleep of the dead.
They that were friends may mourn, they that were friends may praise;
They that knew you and yet knew you never may cavil and blame;
They that were foes in disguise may strike at you down in the grave;
Slander, the scavenger-buzzard may vomit her lies on you there;
Dead Ashes, what do you care? they break not the sleep of the dead.

The hoarse, low voice of the years croaks on forever-and-aye:
Change! Change! Change! and the winters wax and wane.
The old oak dies in the forest; the acorn sprouts at its feet;
The sea gnaws on at the land; the continent crowds on the sea.
Bound to the Ixion wheel with brazen fetters of fate
Man rises up from the dust and falls to the dust again.
God washes our eyes with tears, and still they are blinded with dust:
We grope in the dark and marvel, and pray to the Power unknown
Crying for help to the desert: not even an echo replies.
Doomed unto death like the moon, like the midget that men call man,
Wrinkled with age and agony the old Earth rolls her rounds;
Shrinking and shuddering she rolls an atom in God's great sea
Only an atom of dust in the infinite ocean of space.
What to him are the years who sleeps in her bosom there?
What to him is the cry wrung out of the souls of men?
Change, Change, Change, and the sea gnaws on at the land:
Dead Ashes, what do you care? it breaks not the sleep of the dead.

Down into the darkness at last, Daniel, down into the darkness at last;
Laid in the lap of our Mother, Daniel, sleeping the dreamless sleep,
Sleeping the sleep of the babe unborn the pure and the perfect rest:
Aye, and is it not better than this fitful fever and pain?
Aye, and is it not better if only the dead soul knew?

Up out of the darkness at last, Daniel, out of the darkness at last;
Into the light of the life eternal into the sunlight of God,
Singing the song of the soul immortal freed from the fetters of flesh:
Aye, and is it not better than this fitful fever and pain?
Aye, and is it not better than sleeping the dreamless sleep?
Hark! from the reel of the spheres eternal
the freed soul answereth "Aye."
Aye Aye Aye it is better, brothers,
if it be but the dream of the famished soul.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Daniel' by Hanford Lennox Gordon

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy