Richard Le Gallienne

(1866-1947 / England)

Man, The Destroyer - Poem by Richard Le Gallienne

O spirit of Life, by whatsoe'er a name
Known among men, even as our fathers bent
Before thee, and as little children came
For counsel in Life's dread predicament,
Even we, with all our lore,
That only beckons, saddens and betrays,
Have no such key to the mysterious door
As he that kneels and prays.

The stern ascension of our climbing thought,
The martyred pilgrims of the soaring soul,
Bring us no nearer to the thing we sought,
But only tempt us further from the goal;
Yea! the eternal plan
Darkens with knowledge, and our weary skill
But makes us more of beast and less of man,
Fevered to hate and kill.

Loves flees with frightened eyes the world it knew,
Fades and dissolves and vanishes away,
And the sole art the sons of men pursue
Is to out-speed the slayer and to slay:
And lovely secrets won
From radiant nature and her magic laws
Serve but to stretch black deserts in the sun,
And glut destruction's jaws.

Life! is it sweet no more? the same blue sky
Arches the woods; the green earth, filled with trees,
Glories with song, happy it knows not why,
Painted with flowers, and warm with murmurous bees;
This earth, this golden home,
Where men, like unto gods, were wont to dwell,
Was all this builded, with the stars for dome,
For man to make it hell?

Was it for this life blossomed with fair arts,
That for some paltry leagues of stolen land,
Or some poor squabble of contending marts,
Murder shall smudge out with its reeking hand
Man's faith and fanes alike;
And man be man no more--but a brute brain,
A primal horror mailed and fanged to strike,
And bring the Dark again?

Fool of the Ages! fitfully wise in vain;
Surely the heavens shall laugh!--the long long climb
Up to the stars, to dash him down again!
And all the travail of slow-moving Time
And birth of radiant wings,
A dream of pain, an agony for naught!
Highest and lowest of created things,
Man, the proud fool of thought.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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