Once to my Fancy’s hall a stranger came,
Of mien unwonted,
And its pale shapes of glory without shame
Or speech confronted.
Fair was my hall, — a gallery of Gods
With Nymphs and Satyrs from the dewy sods
Great Jove sat throned in state, with Hermes near,
And fiery Bacchus;
Pallas and Pluto, and those powers of Fear
Whose visions rack us.
Artemis wore her crescent free of stars,
The hunt just scented;
Glad Aphrodite met the warrior Mars,
Rude was my visitant, of sturdy form,
Draped in such clothing
As the world’s great, whom luxury makes warm,
Look on with loathing.
And yet, methought, his service-badge of soil
With honor wearing;
And in his dexter hand, embossed with toil,
A hammer bearing.
But while I waited till his eye should sink,
O’ercome of beauty,
With heart impatience brimming to the brink
Of courteous duty, —
He smote my marbles many a murderous blow,
His weapon poising;
I, in my wrath and wonderment of woe,
No comment voicing.
“Come, sweep this rubbish from the workman’s way,
Wreck of past ages, —
Afford me here a lump of harmless clay,
Ye grooms and pages!”
Then, from that voidness of our mother Earth,
A frame he builded
Of a new feature, — with the power of birth
Fashioned and welded.
It had a might mine eyes had never seen,
A mien, a stature,
As if the centuries that rolled between
Had greatened Nature.
It breathed, it moved; above Jove’s classic sway
A place was won it:
The rustic sculptor motioned; then “To-day”
He wrote upon it.
“What man art thou?” I cried, “and what this wrong
That thou hast wrought me?
My marbles lived on symmetry and song;
Why hast thou brought me
A form of all necessities, that asks
Nurture and feeding?
Not this the burthen of my maidhood’s tasks,
Nor my high breeding.”
“Behold,” he said, “Life’s great impersonate,
Nourished by Labor!
Thy Gods are gone with old-time faith and Fate;
Here is thy Neighbor.”