At length this twilight of the ages fades,
And starless night now sinks upon the world—
An age of iron, cruel, dark and cold.
On Asia first this outer darkness fell,
Once seat of paradise, primordial peace,
Perennial harmony and perfect love.
A despot’s will was then a nation’s law;
An idol’s car crushed out poor human lives,
And human blood polluted many shrines.
Then human speculation made of God
A shoreless ocean, distant, waveless, vast,
Of truth that sees not and unfeeling love,
Whence souls as drops were taken back to fall,
Absorbed and lost, when, countless ages passed,
They should complete their round as souls of men,
Of beasts, of birds and of all creeping things.
And, even worse, the cruel iron castes,
One caste too holy for another’s touch,
Had every human aspiration crushed,
The common brotherhood of man destroyed,
And made all men but Pharisees or slaves.
And worst of all—and what could e’en be worse?—
Woman, bone of man’s bone, flesh of his flesh,
The equal partner of a double life,
Who in the world’s best days stood by his side
To lighten every care, and heighten every joy,
And in the world’s decline still clung to him,
She only true when all beside were false,
When all were cruel she alone still kind,
Light of his hearth and mistress of his home,
Sole spot where peace and joy could still be found—
Woman herself cast down, despised was made
Slave to man’s luxury and brutal lust.
Then war was rapine, havoc, needless blood,
Infants impaled before their mothers’ eyes,
Women dishonored, mutilated, slain,
Parents but spared to see their children die.
Then peace was but a faithless, hollow truce,
With plots and counter-plots; the dagger’s point
And poisoned cup instead of open war;
And life a savage, grim conspiracy
Of mutual murder, treachery and greed.
O dark and cruel age! O cruel creeds!
O cruel men! O crushed and bleeding hearts,
That from the very ground in anguish cry:
“Is there no light—no hope—no help—no God?”
See Hesiod’s description of the shield of Hercules, the St. George of that ancient age of chivalry.
See the celebrated zodiac of Denderah, given in Landseer’s “Sabaean Researches,” and in Napoleon’s “Egypt.”
The Dawn and the Day
The Buddha and the Christ.
Northward from Ganges’ stream and
An ancient city crowned a lofty hill,
Whose high embattled walls had often rolled
The surging, angry tide of battle back.
Walled on three sides, but on the north a cliff,
At once the city’s quarry and its guard,