The Enthusiast


"Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him."

Shall hearts that beat no base retreat
  In youth's magnanimous years—
Ignoble hold it, if discreet
  When interest tames to fears;
Shall spirits that worship light
  Perfidious deem its sacred glow,
  Recant, and trudge where worldlings go,
Conform and own them right?
Shall Time with creeping influence cold
  Unnerve and cow? the heart
Pine for the heartless ones enrolled
  With palterers of the mart?
Shall faith abjure her skies,
  Or pale probation blench her down
  To shrink from Truth so still, so lone
Mid loud gregarious lies?
Each burning boat in Caesar's rear,
  Flames—No return through me!
So put the torch to ties though dear,
  If ties but tempters be.
Nor cringe if come the night:
  Walk through the cloud to meet the pall,
  Though light forsake thee, never fall
From fealty to light.

Wandering late by morning seas
  When my heart with pain was low—
Hate the censor pelted me—
  Deject I saw my shadow go.
In elf-caprice of bitter tone
I too would pelt the pelted one:
At my shadow I cast a stone.
When lo, upon that sun-lit ground
  I saw the quivering phantom take
The likeness of St. Stephen crowned:
  Then did self-reverence awake.

He toned the sprightly beam of morning
  With twilight meek of tender eve,
Brightness interfused with softness,
  Light and shade did weave:
And gave to candor equal place
With mystery starred in open skies;
And, floating all in sweetness, made
  Her fathomless mild eyes.

While faith forecasts millennial years
  Spite Europe's embattled lines,
Back to the Past one glance be cast—
  The Age of the Antonines!
O summit of fate, O zenith of time
When a pagan gentleman reigned,
And the olive was nailed to the inn of the
Nor the peace of the just was feigned.
  A halcyon Age, afar it shines,
  Solstice of Man and the Antonines.
Hymns to the nations' friendly gods
Went up from the fellowly shrines,
No demagogue beat the pulpit-drum
  In the Age of the Antonines!
The sting was not dreamed to be taken from
No Paradise pledged or sought,
But they reasoned of fate at the flowing feast,
Nor stifled the fluent thought,
  We sham, we shuffle while faith declines—
  They were frank in the Age of the Antonines.
Orders and ranks they kept degree,
Few felt how the parvenu pines,
No law-maker took the lawless one's fee
  In the Age of the Antonines!
Under law made will the world reposed
And the ruler's right confessed,
For the heavens elected the Emperor then,
The foremost of men the best.
  Ah, might we read in America's signs
  The Age restored of the Antonines.


facebook share button twitter share button reddit share button share on pinterest pinterest

Add The Enthusiast to your library.

Return to the Herman Melville library , or . . . Read the next poem; The Enviable Isles

© 2022