HATH not man at his noblest
An air of something more than man? —
A hint of grace immortal,
Born of his greatly daring to assist the gods
In conquering these shaggy wastes,
These desert worlds,
And planting life and order in these stars? —
So Woman at her best:
Her eyes are bright with visions and with dreams
That triumph over time;
Her plumed thought, wing for wing, is mate with his.
The world rolls on from dream to dream,
And ‘neath the vast impersonal revenges of its going,
Crushed fools that cried defeat
Lie dead amid the dust they prophesied —
Ye doubters of man’s larger destiny,
Ye that despair,
Look backward down the vistaed years,
And all is battle — and all victory!
Man fought, to be a man!
Through painful centuries the slow beast fought,
Blinded and baffled, fought to gain his soul; —
Wild, hairy, shag, and feared of shadows,
Yet the clouds
Made him strange signals that he puzzled o’er; —
Beast, child, and ape,
And yet the winds harped to him, and the sea
Rolled in upon his consciousness
Its tides of wonder and romance; —
Uncouth and caked with mire,
And yet the stars said something to him, and the sun
Declared itself a god; —
The lagging cycles turned at last
The pictures into thought,
Thought flowered in soul; —
But, oh, the myriad weary years
Ere Caliban was Shakespeare’s self
And Darwin’s ape had Darwin’s brain! —
The battling, battling, and the steep ascent,
The fight to hold the little gained,
The loss, the doubt, the shaken heart,
The stubborn, groping slow recovery! —
But looking backward toward the dim beginnings,
You that despair,
Hath he not climbed and conquered?
Look backward and all’s Victory!
What coward looks forward and foresees defeat?
Who climbed beside him, and who fought
And suffered and was glad?
Is she a lesser thing than he,
Who stained the slopes with bloody feet, or stood
Beside him on some hard-won eminence of hope
Exulting as the bold dawn swept
A harper hand along the ringing hills?
Flesh of his flesh, and of his soul the soul,
Hath she not fought, hath she not climbed?
And how is she a lesser thing? —
Nay, if she ever was
‘Twas we that made her so, who called her queen
But kept her slave.
Had she not courage for the fight?
Hath she not courage for the years to come?
Hath she not courage who descends alone —
(How pitifully alone, except for Love!)
Where man’s thought even falters that would follow,
Into the shadowy abyss
(Through vast and murmurous caverns dark with crowding dread
And terrible with hovering wings),
To battle there with Death? — to battle
There with Death, and wrest from him,
O Conqueror and Mother,
Hath she too long dwelt dream-bound in the world of love,
Unconscious of the sterner throes,
The more austere, impersonal, wide faith,
The urge that drives Christs to the cross
Not for the love of one beloved,
But for the love of all?
If so, she wakes!
Wakes and demands a share in all man’s bolder destinies,
The high, audacious ventures of the soul
That thinks to scale the bastioned slopes
And strike stark Chaos from his throne.
We still stand in the dawn of time.
Not meanly let us stand nor shaken with low doubts!
For there beyond the verge and margin of gray cloud
The future thrills with promise
And the skies are tremulous with golden light; —
She too would share those victories,
Comrade, and more than comrade; —
New times, new needs confront us now;
We must evolve new powers
To battle with; —
We must go forward now together,
Or perchance we fail!
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Based on Keywords: harper, shag, hard-won, caliban, pitifully, darwin, impersonal, christs, foresees, bastioned, evolve