The Piltdown Skull

Don Marquis

What was his life, back yonder
  In the dusk where time began,
This beast uncouth with the jaw of an ape
  And the eye and brain of a man?—
Work, and the wooing of woman,
  Fight, and the lust of fight,
Play, and the blind beginnings
  Of an Art that groped for light?—

In the wonder of redder mornings,
  By the beauty of brighter seas,
Did he stand, the world’s first thinker,
  Scorning his clan’s decrees?—
Seeking, with baffled eyes,
In the dumb, inscrutable skies,
A name for the greater glory
  That only the dreamer sees?

One day, when the afterglows,
  Like quick and sentient things,

  With a rush of their vast, wild wings,
Rose out of the shaken ocean
  As great birds rise from the sod,
Did the shock of their sudden splendor
Stir him and startle and thrill him,
Grip him and shake him and fill him
  With a sense as of heights untrod?—
Did he tremble with hope and vision,
  And grasp at a hint of God?

London stands where the mammoth
  Caked shag flanks with slime—
And what are our lives that inherit
  The treasures of all time?
Work, and the wooing of woman,
  Fight, and the lust of fight,
A little play (and too much toil!)
  With an Art that gropes for light;
And now and then a dreamer,
  Rapt, from his lonely sod
Looks up and is thrilled and startled
  With a fleeting sense of God!

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