Dukalon - Part I. Poem by Timothy Thomas Fortune

Dukalon - Part I.

Guy Dukalon of worth possessed his share;
With more than manly height endowed was he;
And long and silken was his golden hair.

He was a dreamer, careless, happy, free;
A creature to the human slavery bound—
A creature of the earth, the air, the sea;

But he was not a dreamer, ever found
In melancholy's train. Forsooth, some said
He was a poet, gifted in the sound

Of all the tuneful chords in heart and head;
The language knew of every blooming flower;
And, it was said, he could the fury dread

Of savage beasts, prone to their kind devour,
Disarm with his strange gifts. And his sweet song,
With trembling variations, filled the hour

With melody divine, when, clear and strong,
He used his art to banish haunting care.
But not to those did Dukalon belong

Who sing for empty praise. His songs did bear
A charmèd message to the gracious throne
Of endless Mercy, and the Lord did hear,

And angels blest. He sang to those alone,
The chosen dwellers of the earth and sky,
Whose deathless souls were kindred to his own—

Pitching his notes to auditors so high
That mortal man, as angels fair, unbent
To hear; and, when he ceased, a joyous sigh

Bore testimony that his raptures spent
Their force and sweetness where they'd live forever,
Reverberations into th' ages sent!

He looked into life as into a river,
And saw reflected not what others saw,
Or, with their finite vision, could see ever;

For, as the mocking bird in song can draw
More diverse, sweeter notes, the soul to move
Than all the feathered hosts, by that same law

Of matchless wisdom and exhaustless love,
Some visions see where others stare in space!
'Twas so with Dukalon. And high above,

And far beneath, he saw, and so could trace
A truer tale of human joy and pain,
Of love and hate, which actuate all the race!

He did not need to use his powers for gain;
He little cared for earth's delusive fame;
He knew inconstant man had always slain

The gods he honored most, covered the name
With execrations his false reverence
Had glorified! The rabble's praise may tame,

Intoxicate, the soul of Innocence;
Not so with him who knows its vulgar breath
To be a fetid exhalation, whence

Are generated seeds of woe and death!
And he deludes himself who plans to live
Beyond the years of th' inspired prophet's faith.

Thus mused young Dukalon. The world could give
Him much, and much had given, for he was blest
With robust youth and wealth, for which men strive,

And oft in vain; a rich-stored mind possessed,
And fancy that could soar to worlds unknown
And people them with more that e'er caressed

With trusting love or cursed with hate our own,
Since clothed in more ethereal form the while,
For life is life, lived in whatever zone.

His name was ancient—and you need not smile—
As antiquity in our country goes;
He ample acres owned, long mile on mile,

But turned from them. As birds of song repose,
Not long in field or tree, but flit and sing,
Or as the bee that hums from rose to rose,

Restless in the fresh gladness of the Spring,
Not pausing long, seeking new fields of sweets,
Sipping awhile, awhile upon the wing,

So Dukalon. Now gazes he on sheets
Of glassy water of a lake, or stream
Wildly leaping through a glade; now he repeats,

In woodland solitude, some thrilling theme
His wayward fancy caught; care-free in all,
A genius born. Such Dukalon did seem,

And such he was. Nor had the schools withal,
Nor residence afar, changed him a whir.
Still through the fields his jocund voice would call

The yelping hounds the hare to chase; still wit
And roguish pranks were his; still was a boy
In heart and soul. And the long years did sit

But lightly on him. Age did not destroy
His childhood dreams. But now misfortune's gloom
Came o'er his careless life and killed his joy!

It seemed to Dukalon a silent tomb
Had swallowed up the day in rayless night!
And all feel thus who face in youth the doom

Of their first love, sweet love!—sweet e'en in flight,
When it is fresh, and fair to see, and young,
Snatched from the feeling and the raptured sight

In its virginal morn, by the serpent stung!
And it seemed death to Dukalon, a sting
More awful than to die, since he among

His fellows hence must be a nameless thing,
Bereft of any save the voice of woe,
A harp unstrung, except the mournful string!

What had he lost? Ay, what? When fell the blow,
Though strong he was and brave, he reeled like one
By strong drink crazed; his cheeks' vermilion glow

Vanished to paleness; and his eyes scarce shone—
Dull, lustreless, and dead—bright orbs of light
Eclipsed that lit for him fair worlds alone!

They thought that he would die, crushed by the blight
Of youth's first faith, he was so motionless
Who long had shown so much of manly might

In the fierce glare of social nothingness!
Crushed was young Dukalon! The world could give
Like that it took away, his grief the less

To make—why, nothing! What is life to live
When love is dead, or turned to hate, in man?
In vain against obdurate Fate we strive.

Let him assume indifference who can,
And play the Stoic's part, and such are few,
When Cupid's dart the trusting heart doth span,

And lingers there, and no fond hand and true,
Responsive to the bleeding victim's plea,
Is raised to pull it out and heal with dew,

Distilled from eyes of gentlest sympathy,
The cruel laceration! His loyal heart,
Faithful in all, so fickle could not be;

He mourned for what was lost. He could no part
Assume—so generous his nature was—
So free from all Deception's subtle art.

Sophine had come, a shadow from a glass,
Light as the breeze that fans the gorgeous rose,
And tore his tender heart to shreds, alas!

For he had worshipped when he saw repose
Stamped on her brow, and majesty withal,
And chafed his burning passion to disclose;

For youth is vain, and little recks 'twill fall
When lovely woman's smile allures it on
To the blind transports of her fatal thrall.

Freely the galling chain young Dukalon
Had gladly lettered on his life, and youth
With Orient pearls the untried way had strewn;

It was not love's unfailing charm, in truth,
But passion, fancy, equal wealth and birth,
That caused the twain to plight undying troth.

The veil withdrawn, of love a woeful dearth
Apparent was! Their thoughts and tastes unlike,
They neither could perceive the other's worth;

And discontent, like waters o'er a dike
Madly leaping, entered their loveless home,
And there abided! Law and custom strike

Dismay and fear to hearts of those who roam,
In thoughtlessness or pique, from changeless rules
Of nature, fixed. They rail in vain and foam

Who turn, in strength or weakness, the sharp tools
Of vengeance on themselves. And men will err;
For some are wise, some simple, some are fools;

Some err from over-confidence, some fear
And some because a passion to go wrong
Is bone of their bone. Wherever they steer

Their craft they find the rocks and shoals among
The breakers hid, or rashly seek them out.
Then, others, too, there are, by nature strong,

Who err from ignorance. These tossed about
Forever are, because they fell before
They learned to stand; and the cruel, heartless shout—

The fear of Scandal's tongue—forevermore
Makes cowards of them! Parents who should guide
And shape th' impulsiveness of youth do o'er

And o'er let it run wild, till, far and wide,
The seed that blossoms to a life of woe
Is sown. The poet's hopes had died

Because, before the struggling down did grow
Upon his classic lip, no parent's law,
Restraining power, was interposed to show

The man his duty. And great was the flaw
Infatuated youth had failed to see
In the picture his vanity did draw!

Young Dukalon had wed right thoughtlessly,
And dreamed a treacherous hour he loved, and well,
His blushing bride, as thoughtless as was he.

And all who loved the twain made haste to tell
How brilliant was the match, how sweet the bride,
How glowed her cheeks, how high their hopes must swell!

And thus the idle chatter ran. But wide
And turbulent the outstretched Future lay,
On whose storm-bosom they as one must ride

Forever on, through all the night and day,
Till death the farce—if farce it proved to be,
In which no love would smooth the tedious way—

Should end! Short was the dream! Then, misery
Of years was lived in hours, till bondage made
Each of them feverish—anxious to be free!

Be free! What human bondage can degrade
A man or woman as the law that binds
Unloving souls in wedlock! Nor can fade,

While life remains, remembrance from the minds
Of those so joined the everlasting shame
Of such disastrous folly; for it grinds,

Corrodes, eating the vitals as a flame
That never quenchèd is! It is a stain,
Indelible, upon fair hope and name.

He whose smile was magic against all pain,
Whose life was free as zephyrs of a morn
In Summer lands that blow o'er hill and plain,

Freighted with health, was now with doubts forlorn
And discontent made miserable, his voice
Of music and of careless gladness shorn.

The things that made him once in life rejoice
No longer could his fancy catch and hold;
Indifferent he was, bereft of choice.

The dross remained; evanished had the gold.
The world looked on, but little could it see.
To others' woes mankind are chill and cold.

He who would live in men's esteem must be
Encased in steel, harder than flinty rock,
Beyond their treacherous smile and sympathy,

Or be of every dunce the laughing stock!
And if, perforce, his grief should come to view,
He may not find his strength survive the shock!

The friends Misfortune has are always few,
And they are oft abashed by sneers and scorn,
And skulk away, too craven to be true!

Young Dukalon was proud. He would have drawn
His life-blood from his heart ere men should make
A by-word of his woe! He had been born

To scoff at jeers and scorn. Nothing could shake,
Therefore, his purpose to his pain conceal
From friends and foes, e'en though his heart should break.

He bore the torture of domestic steel,
Pierced deep into his lacerated heart,
And oft it made him faint and blindly reel,

So merciless it was! But, to his part
Assigned, he strove to be both brave and strong,
Wincing in silence from the pricking dart.

He was a child of passion and of song.
To love and to be loved, his faith repose
In womankind, to feel his friends among

No shadows dark his buoyant soul enclose,
Were parts of his young life, as much as scorn
And lofty condescension of his foes.

The poet's soul was his, a poet born;
And he was moved and felt as other men,
But in a stronger sense, as men are shorn

Of giant strength, I ween, who have not been
Endowed with giant form; and strength of mind
Was his, and weakness too; and these were seen

In two extremes, and stronger of their kind;
For all great virtues in the race are found,
Too oft, with vices just as great combined;

So Bacon great to Bacon base was bound;
So other men as great a double life
Have lived whose names through all the world resound!

Young Dukalon had lived beyond the strife
Of those who struggle from their youth for bread;
He had not felt the keenness of the knife

As some who Wisdom's thorny path do tread.
Seductive Knowledge in her richest guise
Before his eyes had her rare treasures spread;

And he had lingered 'neath the friendly skies
When the moon, and the stars, and solitude
And he were all alone, when spirit life flies

To spirit life, compelled by a kindred mood,
A sympathy, unearthly of its kind!
Then would he cease upon his woes to brood,

Lulled by the mystery sublime that twined
Itself about his life, like harmony
That soothes to rest the weary, troubled mind.

How strong and sweet the charm and force that lie
In meditation when so surrounded!
Then all things vain and crude within us die,

And all that's God-like, pure and good, doth shed
A calm and holy halo 'bout our dream;
'Tis then the human part of us is dead.

Unseen, unheard, Life's boisterous, treacherous stream,
As it rushes onward, in mad commotion,
More cruel and destructive than it can seem,

To where the dark unknown, the boundless ocean
Of destiny lies hid from human ken!
The poet felt, somehow, he was a portion

Of this vastness and this mystery when,
In the sweet silence of the voiceless night,
He tore himself apart from selfish men

And revelled in a feeling and a sight
Denied his fellows! And it was so sweet
To feel the presence of Eternal light!

But man is human. His lead-weighted feet
Will tread the earth, howe'er his soul may soar
Where angel choirs their psalms of joy repeat

Till the heav'ns' diamond-studded halls do o'er
And o'er with rhapsodies resound! And so
Young Dukalon, although he would no more

Have come to earth, oft found his classic brow
Damp with the dews of night, the stars all dead,
The moon grown pale, and feel his body grow

Alive to pain, and th' angel choirs hushed and fled—
The trance-hour vanished to its unknown goal!
Once he had cried aloud, with bended head:

'Great Ruler of the troubled human soul,
'If in Thy mandate thunders, as they sweep
'From burning tropic to the icy pole,

'A grain of hope remains for those who weep,
'Dragging a chain that causes endless pain,
'Oh, let me in its power my senses steep!

'Let me not hopeless hope, nor plead in vain!
'Oh, banish Thou the all-pervading gloom
'That erst so many trembling souls has slain!

'This earth for man is but a haunted tomb—
'Dread, fathomless—when spectre Doubt enthrones
'Itself within the mind and knells Hope's doom!

'How the vast ocean water heaves and groans,
'Lashed by the angry winds in tempest hour!
'So man, frail man, oppressed, wails long, and moans,

'Disconsolate, when Thy controlling power
'Tosts his frail life upon the storm's wild breast
'And makes him to its fury bend and cower!

'O Thou Spirit of the boundless air, if rest
'There be under the high o'er-arching sky,
'Let me the potence of its magic test!

'Let me unto its hidden treasures fly,
'That I may steep my senses in its calm,
'Dissolve my restless nature in a sigh,

'Live but one moment in its soothing balm,
'Measure one second what it is to be
'Supreme within myself, possess the charm

'Philosophers have sought in vain—be free!
'Then, when the precious moment's grace had fled,
'When nothing more in earth or heaven for me

'Remained, all spent, if Thou shouldst me then wed
'To sudden nothingness, quench the light
'Forever of my soul—where'er it led,

'I'd follow, satisfied, into the night!'
One moment man soars where th' angels abide;
The next he falls to earth, a wingless sprite!
'Oh, what is life to me?' the poet cried.

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