Science, the Iconoclast

Kate Seymour Maclean

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"Oh! spare dual idols of the past,
Whose lips are dumb, whose eyes are dim;
Truth's diadem is not for him
Who comes, the fierce Iconoclast:
Who wakes the battle's stormy blast,
Hears not the angel's choral hymn"

Ah me! for we have fallen on evil days,
When science, with remorseless cold precision,
Puts out the flame of poetry, and lays
Her double-convex lens on fancy's vision.
When not a star has longer leave to shine,
Unweighed, unanalysed, reduced to gases,--
Resolved to something in the chemist's line,
By those miraculously long-ranged glasses.

The awful mysteries which Nature locks
Deep in her stony bosom, hid for ages,--
The hieroglyphics of primeval rocks,
Are glibly written out on short-hand pages.
Within that rocky scroll, her palimpsest,
The hand of time still writes, and still effaces
Records in dolomite--and shale--and schist,
The pre-historic history of Races.

Cave-dwellers, under nameless strata hid,
Vast bones of extinct monsters that were fossil,
Ere the first Pharaoh built the pyramid,
And shaped in stone his sepulchre colossal.
What undiscovered secret yet remains
Beneath the swirl and sway of billows tidal,
Since Art triumphant led the deep in chains,
And on the mane of ocean laid her bridle.

Into those awful crypts of cycles dead,
Shrouded and mute, each in its mummy-chamber,
Her daring step intrudes without more dread
Than to behold a fly embalmed in amber.
Stars--motes--worlds--molecules, and microcosms,
Her level gaze sweeps down the page recorded,
And withers all its myths, and fairy blossoms,
Condemned to explanations dull and sordid.

Alike the sculptures of the graceful Greeks,
Grey with the moss of eld and venerable,
The fauns, the nymphs, the half-defaced antiques,
The gods and men of mythologic fable,
And legends of steel-casqued and mailed men,
The old heroic tales of love and glory,
Of knight, and palmer, and the Saracen,
And the crusaders of enchanted story;

Grim ghosts and goblins, and more harmless sprites
That peopled once our juvenile romances,
And made us shiver in our beds o'nights,
Science has banished those bewitching fancies;
And given us the merest husks instead,
The very bones and skeleton of nature,
Filling those peaceful hours with shapes of dread,
And horrid ranks of Latin nomenclature.

Blest is the Indian on his native plains,
And blest the wandering Tartar, happy nomad,
Fire-worshippers, whose twinkling altar-fanes
Still gleam on lonely peaks beyond Allahbad.
Shadows yet linger round their ruined towers,
And whisper from the caverns and the islands,
Their Memnon still is eloquent, but ours
Stares on with shut lips in an age-long silence.

Not so! The age still ripens for her needs
The flower, the man. Behold her slow still finger
Points where He comes, beneath whose feet the weeds
Bloom out immortal flowers, the immortal Singer!
Forward, not backward all the ages press;
New stars arise, of whose bright occultation
No glory of the dying past could guess:
Still grows the unfinished miracle, Creation.

Oh! Poet of the years that are to come,
Singing at dawn thy idyls sweet and tender--
The preludes of the great millenium
Of song, to drown the world in light and splendour
Awake, arise! thou youngest born of time!
Through flaming sunsets with red banners furled,
The nations call thee to thy task sublime,
To sing the new songs of a newer world!

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