Life

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Pessimist

There is never a thing we dream or do
But was dreamed and done in the ages gone;
Everything's old; there is nothing that's new,
And so it will be while the world goes on.

The thoughts we think have been thought before;
The deeds we do have long been done;
We pride ourselves on our love and lore
And both are as old as the moon and sun.

We strive and struggle and swink and sweat,
And the end for each is one and the same;
Time and the sun and the frost and wet
Will wear from its pillar the greatest name.

No answer comes for our prayer or curse,
No word replies though we shriek in air;
Ever the taciturn universe
Stretches unchanged for our curse or prayer.

With our mind's small light in the dark we crawl,
Glow-worm glimmers that creep about,
Till the Power that shaped us, over us all
Poises His foot and treads us out.

Unasked He fashions us out of clay,
A little water, a little dust,
And then in our holes He thrusts us away,
With never a word, to rot and rust.

'Tis a sorry play with a sorry plot,
This life of hate and of lust and pain,
Where we play our parts and are soon forgot,
And all that we do is done in vain.

II.

Optimist

There is never a dream but it shall come true,
And never a deed but was wrought by plan;
And life is filled with the strange and new,
And ever has been since the world began.

As mind develops and soul matures
These two shall parent Earth's mightier acts;
Love is a fact, and 'tis love endures
'Though the world make wreck of all other facts.

Through thought alone shall our Age obtain
Above all Ages gone before;
The tribes of sloth, of brawn, not brain,
Are the tribes that perish, are known no more.

Within ourselves is a voice of Awe,
And a hand that points to Balanced Scales;
The one is Love and the other Law,
And their presence alone it is avails.

For every shadow about our way
There is a glory of moon and sun;
But the hope within us hath more of ray
Than the light of the sun and moon in one.

Behind all being a purpose lies,
Undeviating as God hath willed;
And he alone it is who dies,
Who leaves that purpose unfulfilled.

Life is an epic the Master sings,
Whose theme is Man, and whose music, Soul,
Where each is a word in the Song of Things,
That shall roll on while the ages roll.

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