Popular Science Monthly/Volume 17/July 1880/My Fire
|←Goethe's Farbenlehre: Theory of Colors II|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 17 July 1880 (1880)
By Frank Wigglesworth Clarke
|A Vindication of Scientific Ethics→|
By Professor F. W. CLARKE.
WITHIN my grate a cheerful blaze
And all her beauties yet unsung— Save in the songs that Nature weaves Into the texture of the leaves, Or teaches to the insect swarms That fill the light with darting forms— A meteor, like some silly moth, To meet destruction nothing loath, Drawn by a force it could not shun, Broke from its circles round the Sun, And in a flashing spiral flight Shot to the central source of light. New fuel fed the solar flame; New sunbeams into being came; And these, unconscious of their birth, Sought speedily the whirling Earth.
In that far-off, mysterious day The undeveloped planet lay Afloat in space, a different thing From that which bears us on its wing. Forgotten rivers downward ran From mountains never seen by man, To oceans, long since dried away, Whose beds are continents to-day. And overhead the heavens bent Not wholly like our firmament. Some stars, perchance, that now are cold, In their deserted orbits rolled; And others shone more brightly then Than since abashed by gaze of men. The very Sun intenser glowed As on the heavenly way he strode, And sent to space the fiercer heat Of fiery youth and vigor sweet.
Through vapors dense the sunbeams fell, And worked in passing many a spell On ancient rocks and flowing streams, And decked with unaccustomed gleams The wings of insects proud to be The wearers of such livery. Then on through forests where the breeze Found giant ferns grown into trees, That in their waving branches held The wealth of summer undispelled. Strange flowers turned bright faces up To catch the light in many a cup, And all of nature gladly sought The blessings by the sunbeams wrought. But these fair rays whose deeds I sing Staid nowhere long for anything; Leaping from rock, and leaf, and tree, From stream and pool with equal glee, Until, half buried in the ground, A freshly fallen seed they found. And here they halted; here at last A welcome duty held them fast.
As day by day the sunbeams fell, A tiny leaflet burst its shell; And soon a stem of tender green Was thrust above the earthy screen. Daily it drank the air and dew; Daily the sunlight warmed it through; Up to a mighty tree it grew. A tower of fronded foliage high Above the forest sought the sky Whose sturdy stem, erect, defied Tempest or flood with haughty pride, And for a century bravely stood The monarch of the solitude.
But Time, who conquers all things, saw This perfect tree without a flaw; And sent an insect, weak and small, To bring about its certain fall. Gnawed at the root, its strength decayed; The forest giant bent and swayed, And with a shuddering crash it fell From the high place it loved so well. Buried in slime, and ooze, and clay, The perished king forgotten lay.
The Ages, with resistless tread, Marched slowly on above the dead; And where the tree had grandly grown They piled a thousand feet of stone. A royal tomb, with royal state, Was token of the monarch's fate: Surely the future has for us No worthier sarcophagus. At last came Man, with eager brain, To ransack Earth in search of gain; And where a brook had cleft apart The rocks to reach a mountain's heart, Deep in the chasm he could trace An ancient forest's burial-place. In sheets of coal the eye could mark The very texture of the bark; And see, with every tender vein Still sharply outlined, clear and plain, Leaves that had wooed the morning sun When Time itself was scarce begun, And turned to stone the giant stem That wore the leafy diadem.
Brightly my fire of coal may burn— Backward my thoughts, resistless, turn. With keen imagination's eye I see the Ages passing by: I see the meteor's headlong flight; A planet's death; the birth of light; The ancient world, unlike our own; The mighty forest turned to stone; And, scene by scene, before my eyes, The whole long vanished past arise. And from my grate I feel the glow Of sunbeams fallen long ago, Stored up by Nature's magic art Within a tree's untainted heart, To sleep a myriad ages long, And wake the subject of a song.</poem>|}