Alone! Alone! No beacon, far or near! No chart, no compass, and no anchor stay!
O what is life, if we must hold it thus as wind-blown sparks hold momentary fire?
Have all the hopes of ages come to naught? Is life no more with noble meaning fraught?
Let Justice, blind and halt and maimed, chastise the rebel spirit surging in my veins, let the Law deal me penalties and pains And make me hideous in my neighbours' eyes.
Those anguished voices in the air!
Oh, I could shriek and tear my hair
In rage, rebellion and despair.
But what is one, amid a throng
So vast and merciless and strong,
To make attempt to right the wrong?
What ear would hear me if I cried?
And who would rally to my side?
What could I do to stem the tide?
Though I should plunge in flood and flame,
And suffer every shame and blame,
The world would triumph all the same.
I am not called upon to pay.
So why join in the hopeless fray,
And waste my brief and precious day?
Let us, dear friend, in mutual strength arise
Against our tyrant Custom, and demand
Free souls and bodies at our own command.
Let us defy the vulgar world's surprise,
Scorn brute convention and soft compromise,
And, bold in proud revolt, and hand in hand,
Cast in our lot and take our fearless stand
With the unsafe, improper, and unwise.
Let us abjure the comfortable creeds
Approved by prudent minds, and revel free
In foolish thoughts and inexpedient deeds; —
For thus alone can life for you and me
Out of this suffocating sloth revive,
And our small spark of good be kept alive.
Is it a virtue, as the sages say,
The 'trivial round and common task' to ply,
And for no wider walk of life to sigh
Than we were born to; sweetly, day by day,
Our meed of lowly reverence to pay
Our high-placed 'betters'; never to defy
The powers that be; never to kick or cry,
Or think, or question - simply to obey?
Then vice be with us, although blood be shed.
No pact with powers partizan and blind;
No peace with Custom that makes right of wrong.
We shall content us when the starved are fed,
When men and brothers are agreed and kind,
And there is fair play between weak and strong.
Why stand dumbfounded and aghast,
As at invading armies sweeping by,
Surprised by haggard face and threatening cry,
The storm unheralded, that rose so fast?
Men, with gaunt wives and hungry children, cast
Upon the wintry streets to thieve or die,
They cannot always suffer silently;
Patience gives out. The poor worm turns at last.
And no ear listens to the warning call.
No eye awakes to see the portent dread.
Must brute force reign and social order fall
Ere these starved millions can be clothed and fed?
A strange phenomenon, this, unconcern -
To live so fast and be so slow to learn!
Each day another soldier in the van,
Each day a new young worker in the fields,
And every day more plenteous harvest-yields
From human toil, to bless and not to ban -
A better world, upon a better plan.
And, daily strengthening the arms he wields,
And more disdainful of old shifts and shields,
An ever nobler and diviner Man.
But, oh, how few the saved, how small the gain,
How poor the profit as against the cost,
The waste of life potential, vast and fair,
In soul unfructified and starveling brain,
Of Power that might have been, and might be - lost
For want of common food and common air!
What of the Night?
To you, who look below,
Where little candles glow --
Who listen in a narrow street,
Confused with noise of passing feet --
To you 'tis wild and dark;
No light, no guide, no ark,
For travellers lost on moor and lea,
And ship-wrecked mariners at sea.
But they who stand apart,
With hushed but wakeful heart --
They hear the lulling of the gale,
And see the dawn-rise faint and pale.
A dawn whereto they grope
In trembling faith and hope,
If haply, brightening, it may cast
A gleam on path and goal at last.