Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/The Hands

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3. THE HANDS.

 

In dazzling whiteness of light lay the earth, like a book of songs
Opened before our eyes. And thus did we sing:

Lo, in this moment the hands of myriads are locked in a magical chain,
That all continents, forests, mountain-ranges, begirds
And across silent realms of all oceans is outstretched unto brethren;
In cities that loom darkly up from deep horizons, tragical altars of sacrifice;
And where the sun, mystical lamp, suspended low from azure vaults,
Bloodily smoulders in smoke, circling over stations and cathedrals,
Palaces of kings and armies, council-chambers, prisons, amphitheatres,
And where the ardour of a myriad hearts in the twilit heaven of spirits

Flares up enkindled, in feverish tempest of sweetness and death,
Grains of glowing coal, uprooted by implement of iron;—
In frowning silences of hollows, in grievous forebodings of summer,
When torrents of spring-tide powers, quenched in the blossom, petrify as lava motionless,
Days, like toilers im secret foundries, creep onward in weariness,
And in drops of sweat sparkle man and beast, a brotherly coupling in the yoke
Under a single invisible lash, that scourges from sunrise to sunset;
On waves of oceans and souls, where anguished behests of sailors, clutched by the whirlwind,
Rotate around the masts, outdinned by triumph of lightnings, when skies and waters
Are welded into a single element of horror and death;—
At all forges, looms and presses, in quarries and subterranean shafts,
Upon building-sites of the Pharaohs, where nations lament in bondage
And raise up gigantic tombs above uncounted lords;—
In the demoniac movement of wheels, pistons and levers and overhead whirring hammers;—
On battle-fields, in observatories, academies, lazarets, laboratories;—

In workshops of masters, pondering over marble, where slumbers
A mightier world of horror and glory and from the fabric of age-old drowsings
Half-illumined arises in the flash of chisels and the creative sparkle of eyes;—
And yonder, where passion on volcanic steeps of death lets blossom
Orange-gardens of yearning and wines and poisons the fieriest ripen
In the feverish never-setting sun; and where lust,
Alchemist poisoned by vapours of his vain ferment,
Raves in hallucinations;—in twilights of mystery and music,
Where pondering draws nigh to forbidden places and amid thunder of orchestras
In a dream of forfeited harmony metals lament and from the strings
Is wafted a torrent of songs like the earliest tempest of earth over weariness of souls;—
Beneath electrifying gesture of maidens, where sparkle dazing spring-tides,
Night-time of destiny resounds in soaring of kisses, stars are as lips aglow
And woman, suddenly blenching at the outcry of her hidden name, in agonies
As upon stairs oozing with blood, descends to the enchanted wells of life,

Amid the wailing of ages hounded in a circle, amid the envious seething of invisible beings,
And with cry of horror starts back, livid, and with grievous flaming of hands
Clasps her prey to ber breasts: a life, lamenting in contact with this sun;
In the clashing of a thousand wills, shattered by streams of thy mystical will,
Alone among all the myriads, man labours, countless hands are aquiver,
From age to age they are fixedly clutched, wearying never
On both hemispheres of earth . . . In tragical triumph of dreaming
Like hands of a child they toy with the stars as with jewels
But on awakening they grow turgid and numb, bloodstained with murder,
Livid with chillness of ages, and amid the soaring of earth, staggering over abysses,
They cling in despair to its herbage. . . Frenzied hands of a ruthless hunter
Tracking the elements down! Curse-laden hands of a half-naked slave
At the scarlet forges of toil! In clasp of entreaty, the hands of the vanquished
Fused like sand by the blow of lightning! And those cleansed with tears,
Glistening, overflowing with lustre, with the bleeding stigmas of love

Branded for ever! Filled with magic and balm, with a touch of the brow reading the thoughts of brethren
Kingly, lavishing! Lulling into celestial solace!
Aetherized as light and unto the fruit of mystical trees
Stretching forth with the whole universe into the endless!—

And our hands, enfolded amid a magical chain of countless hands,
Sway in the current of brotherly strength, which laps upon them from afar,
Ever more potent from pressure of ages. Unbroken waves
Of sorrow, daring, madness, bliss, enchantment and love
Suffuse our bodies. And in the beat of their tempest, with vanishing senses
We feel how our chain, seized by the hands of higher beings,
Enfolds itself in a new chain unto all starry spaces
And encompasses worlds.—And then in answer to the grievous question,
Concealed in dread by centuries, as a secret of birth
Which first-born dying reveal to first-born,
We heard the roundelay of waters, stars, and hearts and amid its strophes,
At intervals melancholy cadences, dithyramb of worlds following one upon the other.

"The Hands" (1901).