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A poem by Don Marquis

At Last

Title:     At Last
Author: Don Marquis [More Titles by Marquis]

EACH race has died and lived and fought for the
"true" gods of that poor race,
Unconsciously, divinest thought of each race
gilding its god's face.
And every race that lives and dies shall make itself
some other gods,
Shall build, with mingled truth and lies, new icons
from the world-old clods.
Through all the tangled creeds and dreams and
shifting shibboleths men hold
The false-and-true, inwoven, gleams: a matted
mass of dross and gold.
Prove, then, thy gods in thine own soul; all others'
gods, for thee, are vain;
Nor swerved be, struggling for the goal, by bribe
of joy nor threat of pain.

As skulls grow broader, so do faiths; as old tongues
die, old gods die, too,

And only ghosts of gods and wraiths may meet
the backward-gazer's view.
Where, where the faiths of yesterday? Ah,
whither vanished, whither gone?
Say, what Apollos drive to-day adown the flaming
slopes of dawn?
Oh, does the blank past hide from view forgotten
Christs, to be reborn,
The future tremble where some new Messiah-Memnon
sings the morn?
Of all the worlds, say any earth, like dust
wind-harried to and fro,
Shall give the next Prometheus birth; but say--at
last--you do not know.

How should I know what dawn may gleam beyond
the gates of darkness there?--
Which god of all the gods men dream? Why
should I whip myself to care?
Whichever over all hath place hath shaped and
made me what I am;
Hath made me strong to front his face, to dare
to question though he damn.

Perhaps to cringe and cower and bring a shrine
a forced and faithless faith
Is far more futile than to fling your laughter in
the face of Death.
For writhe or whirl in dervish rout, they are not
flattered there on high,
Or sham belief to hide a doubt--no gods are mine
that love a lie!
Nor gods that beg belief on earth with portents
that some seer foretells--
Is life itself not wonder-worth that we must cry
for miracles?
Is it not strange enough we breathe? Does every-
thing not God reveal?
Or must we ever weave and wreathe some creed
that shall his face conceal?
Some creed of which its prophets cry it holds
the secret's all-in-all:
Some creed which ever bye and bye doth crumble,
totter, to its fall!
Say any dream of all the dreams that drift and
darkle, glint and glow,
Holds most of truth within its gleams; but say
--at last--you do not know.

Oh, say the soul, from star to star, with victory
wing'd, leap on through space
And scale the bastioned nights that bar the secret's
inner dwelling-place;
Or say it ever roam dim glades where pallid
wraiths of long-dead moons
Flit like blown feathers through the shades, borne
on the breath of sobbing tunes:
Say any tide of any time, of all the tides that ebb
and flow,
Shall buoy us on toward any clime; but say--at
last--you do not know!

[The end]
Don Marquis's poem: At Last