The World’s Changes

By an unknown Irish Poet.

The Solemn Shadow that bears in his hands
 The conquering Scythe and the Glass of Sands, 
 Paused once on his flight where the sunrise shone 
 On a warlike city’s towers of stone; 
And he asked of a panoplied soldier near,
 “How long has this fortressed city been here?” 
And the man looked up, Man’s pride on his brow—
“The city stands here from the ages of old 
And as it was then, and as it is now, 
So will it endure till the funeral knell 
Of the world be knolled, 
As Eternity’s annals shall tell.
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And vestige was none of a city there, 
But lakes lay blue, and plains lay bare, 
And the marshalled corn stood high and pale, 
And a Shepherd piped of love in a vale. 
“How!” spake the Shadow, “can temple and tower 
Thus fleet, like mist, from the morning hour?” 
But the Shepherd shook the long locks from his brow—
“The world is filled with sheep and corn; 
Thus was it of old, thus is it now, 
Thus, too, will it be while moon and sun 
Rule night and morn, 
For Nature and Life are one.” 
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And lo! in the room of the meadow-lands 
A sea foamed far over saffron sands, 
And flashed in the noontide bright and dark, 
And a fisher was casting his nets from a bark; 
How marvelled the Shadow! 
“Where then is the plain? 
And where be the acres of golden grain?” 
But the fisher dashed off the salt spray from his brow—
“The waters begirdle the earth always, 
The sea ever rolled as it rolleth now: 
What babblest thou about grain and fields? 
By night and day Man looks for what Ocean yields.” 
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And the ruddy rays of the eventide 
Were gilding the skirts of a forest wide; 
The moss of the trees looked old, so old! 
And valley and hill, the ancient mould 
Was robed in sward, an evergreen cloak; 
And a woodman sang as he felled an oak. 
Him asked the Shadow—“Rememberest thou 
Any trace of a Sea where wave those trees?” 
But the woodman laughed: Said he, “I trow, 
If oaks and pines do flourish and fall, 
It is not amid seas;—The earth is one forest all.” 
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And what saw the Shadow? A city agen, 
But peopled by pale mechanical men, 
With workhouses filled, and prisons, and marts, 
And faces that spake exanimate hearts. 
Strange picture and sad! was the Shadow’s thought; 
And, turning to one of the Ghastly, he sought 
For a clue in words to the When and the How 
Of the ominous Change he now beheld; 
But the man uplifted his care-worn brow—“Change? 
What was Life ever but Conflict and Change? 
From the ages of eld 
Hath affliction been widening its range.” 
Enough! said the Shadow, and passed from the spot 
At last it is vanished, the beautiful youth 
Of the earth, to return with no To-morrow; 
All changes have checquered Mortality’s lot; 
But this is the darkest—for Knowledge and Truth 
Are but golden gates to the Temple of Sorrow!