THE LAST ORACLE - Jonathan Swift Poems

 
 

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THE LAST ORACLE

(A.D. 361)

eipate toi basilei, xamai pese daidalos aula.
ouketi PHoibos exei kaluban, ou mantida daphnen,
ou pagan laleousan . apesbeto kai lalon udor.

Years have risen and fallen in darkness or in twilight,
    Ages waxed and waned that knew not thee nor thine,
While the world sought light by night and sought not thy light,
    Since the sad last pilgrim left thy dark mid shrine.
Dark the shrine and dumb the fount of song thence welling,
    Save for words more sad than tears of blood, that said:
Tell the king, on earth has fallen the glorious dwelling,
    And the watersprings that spake are quenched and dead.
Not a cell is left the God, no roof, no cover
    In his hand the prophet laurel flowers no more.
And the great king's high sad heart, thy true last lover,
    Felt thine answer pierce and cleave it to the core.
        And he bowed down his hopeless head
            In the drift of the wild world's tide,
        And dying, Thou hast conquered, he said,
            Galilean; he said it, and died.
        And the world that was thine and was ours
        When the Graces took hands with the Hours
        Grew cold as a winter wave
        In the wind from a wide-mouthed grave,
        As a gulf wide open to swallow
            The light that the world held dear.
    O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo,
            Destroyer and healer, hear!

Age on age thy mouth was mute, thy face was hidden,
    And the lips and eyes that loved thee blind and dumb;
Song forsook their tongues that held thy name forbidden,
    Light their eyes that saw the strange God's kingdom come.
Fire for light and hell for heaven and psalms for p├Žans
    Filled the clearest eyes and lips most sweet of song,
When for chant of Greeks the wail of Galileans
    Made the whole world moan with hymns of wrath and wrong.
Yea, not yet we see thee, father, as they saw thee,
    They that worshipped when the world was theirs and thine,
They whose words had power by thine own power to draw thee
    Down from heaven till earth seemed more than heaven divine.
        For the shades are about us that hover
            When darkness is half withdrawn
        And the skirts of the dead night cover
            The face of the live new dawn.
        For the past is not utterly past
        Though the word on its lips be the last,
        And the time be gone by with its creed
        When men were as beasts that bleed,
        As sheep or as swine that wallow,
            In the shambles of faith and of fear.
        O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo,
            Destroyer and healer, hear!

Yet it may be, lord and father, could we know it,
    We that love thee for our darkness shall have light
More than ever prophet hailed of old or poet
    Standing crowned and robed and sovereign in thy sight.
To the likeness of one God their dreams enthralled thee,
    Who wast greater than all Gods that waned and grew;
Son of God the shining son of Time they called thee,
    Who wast older, O our father, than they knew.
For no thought of man made Gods to love or honour
    Ere the song within the silent soul began,
Nor might earth in dream or deed take heaven upon her
    Till the word was clothed with speech by lips of man.
        And the word and the life wast thou,
            The spirit of man and the breath;
        And before thee the Gods that bow
            Take life at thine hands and death.
        For these are as ghosts that wane,
        That are gone in an age or twain;
        Harsh, merciful, passionate, pure,
        They perish, but thou shalt endure;
        Be their flight with the swan or the swallow,
            They pass as the flight of a year.
        O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo,
            Destroyer and healer, hear!

Thou the word, the light, the life, the breath, the glory,
    Strong to help and heal, to lighten and to slay,
Thine is all the song of man, the world's whole story;
    Not of morning and of evening is thy day.
Old and younger Gods are buried or begotten
    From uprising to downsetting of thy sun,
Risen from eastward, fallen to westward and forgotten,
    And their springs are many, but their end is one.
Divers births of godheads find one death appointed,
    As the soul whence each was born makes room for each;
God by God goes out, discrowned and disanointed,
    But the soul stands fast that gave them shape and speech.
        Is the sun yet cast out of heaven?
            Is the song yet cast out of man?
        Life that had song for its leaven
            To quicken the blood that ran
        Through the veins of the songless years
        More bitter and cold than tears,
        Heaven that had thee for its one
        Light, life, word, witness, O sun,
        Are they soundless and sightless and hollow,
            Without eye, without speech, without ear?
        O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo,
            Destroyer and healer, hear!

Time arose and smote thee silent at his warning,
    Change and darkness fell on men that fell from thee;
Dark thou satest, veiled with light, behind the morning,
    Till the soul of man should lift up eyes and see.
Till the blind mute soul get speech again and eyesight,
    Man may worship not the light of life within;
In his sight the stars whose fires grow dark in thy sight
    Shine as sunbeams on the night of death and sin.
Time again is risen with mightier word of warning,
    Change hath blown again a blast of louder breath;
Clothed with clouds and stars and dreams that melt in morning,
    Lo, the Gods that ruled by grace of sin and death!
        They are conquered, they break, they are stricken,
            Whose might made the whole world pale;
        They are dust that shall rise not or quicken
            Though the world for their death's sake wail.
        As a hound on a wild beast's trace,
        So time has their godhead in chase;
        As wolves when the hunt makes head,
        They are scattered, they fly, they are fled;
        They are fled beyond hail, beyond hollo,
            And the cry of the chase, and the cheer.
        O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo,
            Destroyer and healer, hear!

Day by day thy shadow shines in heaven beholden,
    Even the sun, the shining shadow of thy face:
King, the ways of heaven before thy feet grow golden;
    God, the soul of earth is kindled with thy grace.
In thy lips the speech of man whence Gods were fashioned,
    In thy soul the thought that makes them and unmakes;
By thy light and heat incarnate and impassioned,
    Soul to soul of man gives light for light and takes.
As they knew thy name of old time could we know it,
    Healer called of sickness, slayer invoked of wrong,
Light of eyes that saw thy light, God, king, priest, poet,
    Song should bring thee back to heal us with thy song.
        For thy kingdom is past not away,
            Nor thy power from the place thereof hurled;
        Out of heaven they shall cast not the day,
            They shall cast not out song from the world.
        By the song and the light they give
        We know thy works that they live;
        With the gift thou hast given us of speech
        We praise, we adore, we beseech,
        We arise at thy bidding and follow,
            We cry to thee, answer, appear,
        O father of all of us, Paian, Apollo,
            Destroyer and healer, hear!