Dreams Of Life

Timothy Thomas Fortune

O, Life of Dreams! O, Dreams of Life!
Ye mysteries are that breathe and thrill-
In times of peace, in times of strife-
Through all the pulses of our will.
In hours of joy, in hours of pain,
In all of Love, in all of Hate,
We strive t' evade thee, but in vain,
For ye are messengers of Fate!
How vain is man! How passing vain!
The son of Macedon see stride
His day upon the battle plain,
And sate with blood his vaulting pride!
Conquered he all of earth then known,
And for more worlds to conquer sighed!
Then, drunk with crime, Death claimed his own-
The cruel monster drank and died!

Then Cæsar took the world's command,
And savage millions cut he down!
E'en mighty Pompey, great and grand,
Fell like the fresh green grass, new mown!
And Rome, Imperial Rome! the Fates
Resigned to his corrupt embrace!
And all of Rome's dependent states
Implored the boon of Cæsar's grace!
He who had conquered from the Nile
To where the Rhone and Thamès stray,
Who basked in beauty's fickle smile
And thought supreme to end his day-
The master of the world was slain
In the swift movement of the eye;
In torture that subdued e'en pain
He went to judgment in the sky!
His grasp of power the world in thrall
As adamantine chains did hold;
No arm was raised to stay his fall-
And treason triumphed, treason bold!
The mind grows faint the blood to view
That selfish man has spilt-for what?
To dull his hate, or chain renew
That binds the helot to his lot!
That mad ambition may o'erleap
The bounds of Reason and of Right,
Or in cursèd chains doomed millions keep
On plea of Wisdom and of Might.

The Corsican, fierce Bonaparte,
Worse than the savage Hun, arose,
A war god born, with head and heart
That conquered heat and laughed at snows!
The burning sands of Egypt old-
Italia's peerless land and sky-
Bald Russia's blighting storm and cold-
These had he chained to misery
Ere Destiny upon him beamed
The torture of its withering frown-
Disarmed the purpose he had dreamed,
To make the world to him play clown!
This Corsican, whose name to speak
Made proudest nations quake with fear-
Caucasian, Latin, and the Greek-
This slave of Power was spent with care!
Above his murderous head the roar
Was heard of shot and shell and flame!
From every tribe, from every shore,
His foes in massive armies came!
The trembling world at Waterloo,
In dread suspense and fear, did wait,
Bowed in sackcloth and ashes low,
Upon the verdict of grim Fate!
What if the Corsican had won
The doubtful hazard of the day?
What if no Iron Wellington
To victory had led the way?
The course of empire still had been
In paths that titled rogues had hewn!
Some names in history's pages green
On other fields their fame had won!
O gracious Lord! forgive the crime
That rears on high itself a throne.
Which, like the pagan's idol, Time
Defaces-spurns the thing to own.
Prescriptive right is claimed to starve
The children of the fruitful soil,
Whose ceaseless labors do but carve
For those who thrive but do not toil.

'Twas Adam, first of sinners, sought
His cowardice to cover o'er;
The traitor, by the foeman bought,
Flies from his country's wrathful shore;
Still, conscience haunts the guilty soul,
Accuses and condemns him still;
Alone he staggers to the goal,
Hated, descends life's cheerless hill!
Where'er he skulks the angry sky
Hangs threatening o'er his guilty head;
E'en in his dreams do phantoms nigh
Make horrible his exile's bed.

Upon the future life we build,
As built the toilers of the Nile,
Whose rude and ruthless tyrants willed
That God's eternal sun should smile
On monuments of dust and stone
Which should defy the flight of Time,
Beneath dumb hieroglyphics groan,
The wonder of each age and clime!
And still they stand, in Winter's storms
And vernal Summer's rays benign,
Lifting on high grand, gloomy forms
Round which eternity may twine!

The Pyramids! When did they rear
Their sombre bulk to Time's stern gaze?
Canst estimate the thought-the care-
The lives condemned-the flight of days-
That went to consecrate the pile
Where Egypt's tyrants now repose,
The sentient serpents of the Nile,
At whose commands the phantoms rose?
Each stone cemented with the gore,
The tears and sweat of some poor slave!
For each dead king the millions bore
Into the gloomy vaults, his grave,
A thousand men, perchance, had bled,
Had sacrificed their all in death,
To guard the tyrant in his bed
And watch for his returning breath!

Yes; on the Future Life we build,
Rear crumbling monuments to fame,
When Death's remorseless clasp has stilled
The currents of the mortal frame!
Man's labors here are all in vain,
Are scattered on the cyclone blast-
Scattered afar like tiny seed,
Upon a barren desert cast,
If Duty and Justice be not
The objects of his care and zeal;
Or in the granary will rot,
As time eats up the blade of steel!
The universal law ordains,
Nor can we change the just decree,
That man to man, as man, remains,
By kindred ties, each as each free!

There were no kings of men till men
Made kings of men, and of the earth;
There were no privileged classes when
First Nature, man and beasts, had birth.
Man was sole monarch of his sphere,
And each with equal power was made;
Each from the earth partook his share;
Each shared with each earth's sun and shade.
No fetters on the limbs were bound;
The intellect was free as light;
Man's every wish abundance found;
He gloried in his earth-wide right.
God made the earth and sky-the breath
Of mountain and of smiling vale-
And filled them all with life, not death,
As bracing as the ocean gale!

The giant warrior clothed in steel,
The high-walled city, ravaged plain,
The angry millions as they reel
To battle, death, or woe and pain-
The world in thrall to him whose might
And cunning triumph o'er his kind-
Did God make Might the test of Right,
Or man-blind leader of the blind!
No; Vanity has reared on high
The grandeur of its fragile power,
But it will fall, will prostrate lie,
The broken idol of an hour.

O, Life of Dreams! O, Dreams of Life!
Ye mysteries are that breathe and thrill-
In times of peace, in times of strife-
Through all the pulses of our will.

Last updated November 04, 2022