How fine the mesh of Clio's sieve!
How deft; sifting teeming epoch
To one parchment, in it to live
Distilled, a lost world in one book.
An epic lives in one last line
Of plucked hexameter, to stand
For seven thousand not so fine.
The remnant Library fills one hand,
One scroll immortal of millions
Dust and ash. Or is it Eris,
Random goddess, her selections
That we pore over and caress?
Our faith is, we've the gold, not dross;
We could not else bear feel the loss.
When word was brought that Alexander was dead
In Babylon, gossips said it was not true;
For if that demigod spirit had shed
So vast a corpse, its corruption then through
The whole world would reek; men from Carthage
To India would pause and sniff the air,
That by the stench declared the End of Age
Like an incense-wafted funeral prayer.
Yet he was dead, and in time earth did stink
With the metal tang of blood. Forty years
His funeral games were held, and men did think
His dying crueler than his life. More tears
And blood they shed, his diadem to strive,
Than he had spilled in Asia, when alive.
When the Last Man dies, and those drifted ones
Born just beyond the closing threshold, changed,
Gather at his obsequies, mutant sons
And daughters with new souls, new eyes, and strange
Tongues, what songs will they sing in elegy?
Will it be music in scales we might ken,
Or shall they have transcended melody
To some new communion, these aftermen?
Shall the changelings even note our passing?
Did we mourn the last Neanderthal, or
Were we heedless in our proud surpassing
As we erased our soul's progenitor?
When new eyes wake, heirs to a holocaust,
Can the fresh, raw world know what has been lost?
Envying the Lichen
The gnawing lichen dissolve the mountains
In leisured nibbles of eternity.
When they rise at last from their long repast,
Who will have noticed the flicker of me?
Brief was I here, in my frozen moment,
Reveling in my tiny piece of now,
Bounded in my nutshell, largely content,
Blind to beginning, end, the why or how
Of the tale. Still I wonder, and envy
The lichen, chewing the granite like a cow
Its cud, ruminating so patiently
Over the pageant, as swift glaciers plow
The plains, and oceans flow and ebb between;
They view the epic plot, from beginning
To end spectators of every scene,
Where I glimpse one held pose, knowing nothing
Of the unfolding. I do not envy
The rough pale scales their immortality;
Only their witness of the great story.