The Great War

from The Poems of Robert W. Sterling, an electronic edition

Oxford--First Vision

I SAW her bow'd by Time's relentless hand,

Calm as cut marble, cold and beautiful,

As if old sighs through the dim night of years,

Like frosted snow-flakes on the silent land,

Had fallen: and old laughter and old tears,

Old tenderness, old passion, spent and dead,

Had moulded her their stony monument:

While ghostly memory lent

Treasure of form and harmony to drape her head.

Proud-stooping statue! still her arm, up-rais'd,

Pointed the sceptre skyward, like a queen

Gleaning bright wonder from the world amaz'd,

Thrilling the firmament with rapturous awe;

Yet blind in giving light--unseeing, seen:

Self-wrapp'd in gloom of wisdom and deep law.

Oh, could I pluck (methought) from out yon breast

A share of her rich mystery, and feel

Flushing my soul with new adventurous zeal

The fiery perfume of that flame-born flower

Which grows in man to God: then I might wrest

Glad secrets from the past,--the golden dower

Of the world's sunrise and young glimmering East.