Poems, now first collected/"Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos?"
"UBI SUNT QUI ANTE NOS?"
READ AT THE SEMI-CENTENNIAL MEETING OF THE CENTURY ASSOCIATION, JANUARY 13, 1897
How now are the Others faring? Where sit They all in state?
And is there a token that somewhere, beyond the muffled gate,
The vanished and unreturning, whose names our memories fill,
Are holding their upper conclave and are of the Century still?
Is it all a fancy that somewhere, that somehow, the mindful Dead,
From the first that made his exit to the latest kinsman sped,—
Their vision ourselves unnoting, their shapes by ourselves unseen,—
Have gathered like us, together this night in that strange demesne?
That the astral world's telepathy along their aisles of light
Has summoned our brave immortals, this selfsame mortal night,
All in that rare existence where thoughts a substance are,
To their native planet's aura, from journeyings near and far;
And that now with forms made over, and life as jocund and young
As when they here kept wassail and joined in the catches sung,
They have met in the ancient fashion, and now in the old-time speech
Are chanting their Vivat Centuria just out of our hearing's reach?
Yes, O yes,—as the pictured ghosts of Huns war on in middle air
With a fiercer battle-hunger from the field upflinging there,—
And since the things we have chosen from all, as most of worth
Forever here and hereafter, cease not with the end of Earth;
Since joy and knowledge and beauty, and the love of man to man
Passing the love of women, the links of our chain began,—
Yea, even as these are ceaseless, so they who were liegemen here
Hark back and are all Centurions this night of the fiftieth year!
Yes, the draftsmen and craftsmen have fashioned with a dream's compelling force
The Century's lordlier temple, have builded it course on course,
And a luminiferous ether floods the great assembly-hall
Where the scintillant "C. A." colophon burns high in the sight of all.
The painters have hung from end to end cloud-canvases ablaze
With that color-scheme from us hidden in the ultra-violet rays,
With the new chiaroscuro of things that each way face,
And the in-and-out perspective of their four-dimensioned space.
O, to hear the famed Cantators upraise the mighty chant,
With their bass transposed to the rumbling depth below our octaves scant,
And a tenor of those Elysian notes "too fine for mortal ear,"
Yet tuned to the diapason of this dear old darkling sphere!
And O, to catch but a glimpse of the company thronged around—
The scholars that know it all at last, the poets finally crowned!
There the blithe divines, that fear no more the midnight chimes, sit each
With his halo tilted a trifle, and his harp at easy reach;
There all the jolly Centurions of high or low degree,
This night of nights, as in early time, foregather gloriously,—
Come back, mayhap, from Martian meads, from many an orb come back,
Full sure the cheer they cared for here this night shall have no lack;
For they know the jovial servitors have mingled a noble brew
Of the tipple men call nectarean, the pure celestial dew,
And are passing around ambrosial cakes, while the incense-clouds arise
Of something akin to those earthly fumes not even the Blest despise.
And yet—and yet—could we listen, we might o'erhear them say
They would barter a year of Aidenn to be here for a night and a day;
And if one of us yearns to follow the paths that thitherward wend—
Let him rest content,—let him have no fear,—he verily shall in the end.
Then not for the quick alone this hour unbar the entrance gate,
But a health to the brethren gone before, however they hold their state!
Nor think it all fancy that to our hearts there comes an answering thrill
From the Dead that echo our Vivats and are of the Century still.