ONCE more this Autumn-earth is ripe,
by Arthur Henry Adams
Parturient of another type.
While with the Past old nations merge
His foot is on the Future’s verge.
They watch him, as they huddle, pent,
Striding a spacious continent,
Above the level desert’s marge
Looming in his aloofness large.
No flower with fragile sweetness graced—
A lank weed wrestling with the waste;
Pallid of face and gaunt of limb,
The sweetness withered out of him;
Sombre, indomitable, wan,
The juices dried, the glad youth gone.
A little weary from his birth,
His laugh the spectre of a mirth,
Bitter beneath a bitter sky,
To Nature he has no reply.
Wanton, perhaps, and cruel. Yes,
Is not his sun more merciless?
So drab and neutral is his day,
He finds a splendour in the grey,
And from his life’s monotony
He draws a dreary melody.
When earth so poor a banquet makes
His pleasures at a gulp he takes;
The feast is his to the last crumb:
Drink while he can…the drought will come.
His heart a sudden tropic flower,
He loves and loathes within an hour.
Yet you who by the pools abide,
Judge not the man who swerves aside;
He sees beyond your hazy fears;
He roads the desert of the years;
Rearing his cities in the sand,
He builds where even God has banned;
With green a continent he crowns,
And stars a wilderness with towns;
With paths the distances he snares;
His gyves of steel the great plain wears.
A child who takes a world for toy,
To build a nation or destroy,
His childish features frozen stern,
His manhood’s task he has to learn—
From feeble tribes to federate
One white and peace-encompassed State.
But if there be no goal to reach?…
The track lies open, dawns beseech!
Enough that he lay down his load
A little farther on the road.
So, toward undreamt-of destinies
He slouches down the centuries.