The Reign Of Reason

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

The day of truth is dawning. I behold
O'er darksome hills the trailing robes of gold
And silent footsteps of the gladsome dawn.
The morning breaks by sages long foretold;
Truth comes to set upon the world her throne.
Men lift their foreheads to the rising sun,
And lo the reign of Reason is begun.
Fantastic phantasms fly before the light
Pale, gibbering ghosts and ghouls and goblin fears:
Man who hath walked in sleep what thousands years?
Groping among the shadows of the night,
Moon-struck and in a weird somnambulism,
Mumbling some cunning cant or catechism,
Thrilled by the electric magic of the skies
Sun-touched by Truth awakes and rubs his eyes.

Old Superstition, mother of cruel creeds,
O'er all the earth hath sown her dragon-teeth.
Lo centuries on centuries the seeds
Grew rank, and from them all the haggard breeds
Of Hate and Fear and Hell and cruel Death.
And still her sunken eyes glare on mankind;
Her livid lips grin horrible; her hands,
Shriveled to bone and sinew, clutch all lands
And with blind fear lead on or drive the blind.
Ah ignorance and fear go hand in hand,
Twin-born, and broadcast scatter hate and thorns,
They people earth with ghosts and hell with horns,
And sear the eyes of truth with burning brand.

Behold, the serried ranks of Truth advance,
And stubborn Science shakes her shining lance
Full in the face of stolid Ignorance.
But Superstition is a monster still
An Hydra we may scotch but hardly kill;
For if with sword of Truth we lop a head,
How soon another groweth in its stead!
All men are slaves. Yea, some are slave to wine
And some to women, some to shining gold,
But all to habit and to customs old.
Around our stunted souls old tenets twine
And it is hard to straighten in the oak
The crook that in the sapling had its start:
The callous neck is glad to wear the yoke;
Nor reason rules the head, but aye the heart:
The head is weak, the throbbing heart is strong;
But where the heart is right the head is not far wrong.

Men have been learning error age on age,
And superstition is their heritage
Bequeathed from age to age and sire to son
Since the dim history of the world begun.
Trust paves the way for treachery to tread;
Under the cloak of virtue vices creep;
Fools chew the chaff while cunning eats the bread,
And wolves become the shepherds of the sheep.
The mindless herd are but the cunning's tools;
For ages have the learned of the schools
Furnished pack-saddles for the backs of fools.
Pale Superstition loves the gloom of night;
Truth, like a diamond, ever loves the light.
But still 'twere wrong to speak but in abuse,
For priests and popes have had, and have, their use.
Yea, Superstition since the world began
Hath been an instrument to govern man:
For men were brutes, and brutal fear was given
To chain the brute till Reason came from heaven.
Aye, men were beasts for lo how many ages!
And only fear held them in chains and cages.

Wise men were priests, and gladly I accord
They were the priests and prophets of the Lord;
For love was lust and o'er all earth's arena
Hell-fire alone could tame the wild hyena.
All history is the register, we find,
Of the crimes and lusts and sufferings of mankind;
And there are still dark lands where it is well
That Superstition wear the horns of hell,
And hold her torches o'er the brutal head,
And fright the beast with fire and goblin dread
Till Reason come the darkness to dispel.

How hard it is for mortals to unlearn
Beliefs bred in the marrow of their bones!
How hard it is for mortals to discern
The truth that preaches from the silent stones,
The silent hills, the silent universe,
While Error cries in sanctimonious tones
That all the light of life and God is hers!
Lo in the midst we stand: we cannot see
Either the dark beginning or the end,
Or where our tottering footsteps turn or trend
In the vast orbit of Eternity.
Let Reason be our light the only light
That God hath given unto benighted man,
Wherewith to see a glimpse of his vast plan
And stars of hope that glimmer on our night.
Lo all-pervading Unity is His;
Lo all-pervading Unity is He:
One mighty heart throbs in the earth and sea,
In every star through heaven's immensity,
And God in all things breathes, in all things is.
God's perfect order rules the vast expanse,
And Love is queen and all the realms are hers;
But strike one planet from the Universe
And all is chaos and unbridled chance.

And is there life beyond this life below?
Aye, is death death? or but a happy change
From night to light on angel wings to range,
And sing the songs of seraphs as we go?
Alas, the more we know the less we know we know.

God hath laid down the limits we cannot pass;
And it is well he giveth us no glass
Wherewith to see beyond the present glance,
Else we might die a thousand deaths perchance
Before we lay our bones beneath the grass.
What is the soul, and whither will it fly?
We only know that matter cannot die,
But lives and lived through all eternity,
And ever turns from hoary age to youth.
And is the soul not worthier than the dust?
So in His providence we put our trust;
And so we humbly hope, for God is just
Father all-wise, unmoved by wrath or ruth:
What then is certain what eternal? Truth,
Almighty God, Time, Space and Cosmic Dust.

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