Ode on the Twentieth Century

(A Dream-Prophecy.)

What seer is this,
Who gazing calm athwart the deep
Where pent-up storms and thunders sleep,
Nothing can miss?
O'er sweeping with his falcon glance vast tracks,
Chaotic, dim, mysterious.
What lacks
His prescience brooding o'er a cycle new?
What vaster view
Saw ever seer of eld wrapped in a trance?
What pageant more majestic to enhance
His spirit's yearning mood?
To distant caves
The mighty ocean laves,
To airy grottoes, where the lightning wakes,
His searching glance is sent.
Serene, absorbed, attent,
He meditates;
Forcasting what may be in days unborn —
Days that with sunrise freshness all impearled,
With wings unfurled,
Pause to alight upon a waiting world.

" What may they bring us, Seer?
Unto thy vision clear
Is all revealed?
What of those mystic spheres
Th' unfathomable years
So close have sealed?
What cult is taught in Venus?
Shall we know
Whether there come and go
Fair mortals on that soil unknown,
To manly stature grown?
Are hearth-fires kindled on that planet-isle,
And o'er the sacred pile
Does incense rise to some Divinity?
Look closer, Seer, and see! "

O the wonder of the vision!
O the marvel of the sight!
What shores and streams Elysian!
What scenes with splendor dight!
The seer is rapt: enkindled
His brooding glance has grown;
Then solemn made he answer,
With myst'ry in his tone.

" I grope: the scales are yet
Upon my asking eyes;
Forebodings of surprise
My spirit seize; then let
Naught rude disturb my consecrated mood.


" 'Tis come! 'tis come! the vision grows apace!
The scales have fall'n, and behold! I trace
Wonders sublime;
The scroll of Time
With deeper mysteries will be o'er-writ.

" The world is spanned by bridges
Builded of rainbow rays;
O'er foam and wat'ry ridges,
They glitter, glitter to the moon.
They'll lead the foot full soon
To dwellings past the Pleiads,
To Cassiope's bright seat.
A thought! and lo, we gaze
Amid a planet's haze.
Could motion be more fleet?

" And harken! Down the chiming spheres
To list'ning ears,
An anthem comes from Jupiter's vast plain —
A matchless strain.

" A message from a star!
Harness the winged car
With other steeds than any seen before.
Why heed our lagging pow'rs?
Star-wisdom will be ours;
E'en in a flash of thought
Intelligence be brought,
Undreamed of lore.

" I see a hall of weird magnificence,
All studded o'er with scintillating gems
Of rarest lustre; 'tis a temple whence
Flows wisdom like a river; nothing stems
The rushing of its richly freighted waves.
Lo! 'tis on Saturn's isles where stately stands
That gleaming hall, and countless student bands
Are flocking thither in air-chariots brought
To learn the subtlest thought
Of star and planet lore,
All unrevealed before.

" Wisdom from worlds erstwhile beyond our ken.
Stupendous! marvelous! what deeds of men
Evoke this guerdon? Lo! the Deity
Makes man to praise
His boundless majesty.
These works beyond compare
His signet bear.

" And all the alchemy of Earth's vast depths,
Magic in coruscating jewels hid,
Secrets but vaguely hinted by the winds,
Marvels beneath the Ocean's wavy lid,
Have yielded to man's craving; myst'ries sealed
Since sun and moon and stars from Chaos wheeled,
Are now revealed.

" I cease to gaze. I cannot struggle more
With mighty sights and sounds that winged come
From space illimitable, and my eyes
Grow misty 'neath th' effulgence. I am dumb.
I cannot fathom what so near me lies —
Wonders unseen, unheard, unknown before. "
The curtain falls again, the quest is o'er.

Last updated March 25, 2023