Ambrose Bierce

(24 June 1842 - 26 December 1913 / Horse Cave Creek, Ohio)

Finis Aeternitatis - Poem by Ambrose Bierce

Strolling at sunset in my native land,
With fruits and flowers thick on either hand,
I crossed a Shadow flung athwart my way,
Emerging on a waste of rock and sand.

'The apples all are gone from here,' I said,
'The roses perished and their spirits fled.
I will go back.' A voice cried out: 'The man
Is risen who eternally was dead!'

I turned and saw an angel standing there,
Newly descended from the heights of air.
Sweet-eyed compassion filled his face, his hands
A naked sword and golden trumpet bare.

'Nay, 'twas not death, the shadow that I crossed,'
I said. 'Its chill was but a touch of frost.
It made me gasp, but quickly I came through,
With breath recovered ere it scarce was lost.'

'Twas the same land! Remembered mountains thrust
Grayed heads asky, and every dragging gust,
In ashen valleys where my sons had reaped,
Stirred in familiar river-beds the dust.

Some heights, where once the traveler was shown
The youngest and the proudest city known,
Lifted smooth ridges in the steely light
Bleak, desolate acclivities of stone.

Where I had worshiped at my father's tomb,
Within a massive temple's awful gloom,
A jackal slunk along the naked rock,
Affrighted by some prescience of doom.

Man's vestiges were nowhere to be found,
Save one brass mausoleum on a mound
(I knew it well) spared by the artist Time
To emphasize the desolation round.

Into the stagnant sea the sullen sun
Sank behind bars of crimson, one by one.
'Eternity's at hand!' I cried aloud.
'Eternity,' the angel said, 'is done.

For man is ages dead in every zone;
The angels all are dead but I alone;
The devils, too, are cold enough at last,
And God lies dead before the great white throne!

'Tis foreordained that I bestride the shore
When all are gone (as Gabriel did before,
When I had throttled the last man alive)
And swear Eternity shall be no more.'

'O Azrael-O Prince of Death, declare
Why conquered I the grave?' I cried. 'What rare,
Conspicuous virtues won this boon for me?'
'You've been revived,' he said, 'to hear me swear.'

'Then let me creep again beneath the grass,
And knock thou at yon pompous tomb of brass.
If ears are what you want, Charles Crocker's there
Betwixt the greatest ears, the greatest ass.'

He rapped, and while the hollow echoes rang,
Out at the door a curst hyena sprang
And fled! Said Azrael: 'His soul's escaped,'
And closed the brazen portal with a bang.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 28, 2012



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