At Last

Don Marquis

Each race has died and lived and fought for the
    “true” gods of that poor race,
Unconsciously, divinest thought of each race gild-
    ing its god’s face.
And every race that lives and dies shall make itself
    some other gods,
Shall build, with mingled truth and lies, new icons
    from the world-old clods.
Through all the tangled creeds and dreams and
    shifting shibboleths men hold
The false-and-true, inwoven, gleams: a matted
    mass of dross and gold.
Prove, then, thy gods in thine own soul; all others’
    gods, for thee, are vain;
Nor swerved be, struggling for the goal, by bribe
    of joy nor threat of pain.

As skulls grow broader, so do faiths; as old tongues
    die, old gods die, too,

And only ghosts of gods and wraiths may meet
    the backward-gazer’s view.
Where, where the faiths of yesterday?  Ah,
    whither vanished, whither gone?
Say, what Apollos drive to-day adown the flaming
    slopes of dawn?
Oh, does the blank past hide from view forgotten
    Christs, to be reborn,
The future tremble where some new Messiah-
    Memnon sings the morn?
Of all the worlds, say any earth, like dust wind-
    harried to and fro,
Shall give the next Prometheus birth; but say—
    at last—you do not know.

How should I know what dawn may gleam beyond
    the gates of darkness there?—
Which god of all the gods men dream?  Why
    should I whip myself to care?
Whichever over all hath place hath shaped and
    made me what I am;
Hath made me strong to front his face, to dare
    to question though he damn.

Perhaps to cringe and cower and bring a shrine
    a forced and faithless faith
Is far more futile than to fling your laughter in
    the face of Death.
For writhe or whirl in dervish rout, they are not
    flattered there on high,
Or sham belief to hide a doubt—no gods are mine
    that love a lie!
Nor gods that beg belief on earth with portents
    that some seer foretells—
Is life itself not wonder-worth that we must cry
    for miracles?
Is it not strange enough we breathe?  Does every-
    thing not God reveal?
Or must we ever weave and wreathe some creed
    that shall his face conceal?
Some creed of which its prophets cry it holds
    the secret’s all-in-all:
Some creed which ever bye and bye doth crumble,
    totter, to its fall!
Say any dream of all the dreams that drift and
    darkle, glint and glow,
Holds most of truth within its gleams; but say
    —at last—you do not know.

Oh, say the soul, from star to star, with victory
    wing’d, leap on through space
And scale the bastioned nights that bar the secret’s
    inner dwelling-place;
Or say it ever roam dim glades where pallid
    wraiths of long-dead moons
Flit like blown feathers through the shades, borne
    on the breath of sobbing tunes:
Say any tide of any time, of all the tides that ebb
    and flow,
Shall buoy us on toward any clime; but say—at
    last—you do not know!

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