Treasure Island

George Sterling

(1869-1926 / United States)

The Common Cult


Up to the House of Mammon, from dawn to sister dawn,
Called by remembered voices the sons of men are drawn;
By noon the dust goes skyward, by night the torches flare,
On veining roads that mingle—and you and I are there.

Around the House of Mammon, like ruined cities’ stones,
The stubborn and the haughty have left their trampled bones.
They were the few in number that would not enter in,
Saying, “The god is evil.” Saying, “To kneel is sin.”

The ebony House of Mammon goes up against the sky;
The north wind and the south wind before its portals die.
Its towers go near to Heaven; its vaults go nearer Hell,
And all are fat with favor to some who serve them well.

Before the House of Mammon stand you not overlong,
But enter to the worship, unnoted in the throng;
There it is ill to parley, to ask the why or when,
For he whose line would prosper shall be as other men.

Within the House of Mammon august the twilights are,
Across whose gulf the portal gleams smaller than a star.
The bucklers of the mighty in rust and ruin melt,
Above those deep foundations where king and pontiff knelt.

Within the House of Mammon low thunder of loud pray’rs
Rolls from the burdened pavement and coiled, colossal stairs—
Petition and obeisance, when each makes known his need,
Begging the flamens hearken, begging the largess speed.

Within the House of Mammon his priesthood stands alert,
By mysteries attended, by dusk and splendors girt,
Knowing, for faiths departed, his own shall still endure,
And they be found his chosen, untroubled, solemn, sure.

Within the House of Mammon the golden altar lifts
Where dragon-lamps are shrouded as costly incense drifts—
A dust of old ideals, now fragrant from the coals,
To tell of hopes long ended, to tell the death of souls.

Within the House of Mammon there is no need of song,
And faced by them who doubt not, no doubt endures for long;
Tho twilight hold the temple, there yet each one shall see
The Word of Words, the letters that spell “Necessity.”

Beyond the House of Mammon there is no need to go,
And other fanes are shadow, whose figments melt and flow.
Grown weary of the service, no scoffer long derides,
For past the veils and darkness, a very god abides….

Above the House of Mammon, the hours and ages tread,
Nor find the ramparts shaken, nor see the sentries fled,
Till o’er the massy columns, broken like those of Tyre,
The long-awaited Morning go winged with crystal fire.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

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