The Gifts of the Fates

WHEN I was born, the Fatés inscrutable,
Who do the will of Providence in men,
Came where I slept, and brought their awful gifts.
First leaned the Eldest over me, and said,
“ This seed, my child, Desire-of-Truth is called.
I plant it in thee; with thy growth ’t will grow,
And sweet and bitter shall its harvests be, —
Bitter, and sweet, and fleeting. It will bear
The plenteous apples of fecund Philosophy,
Red-cheeked and fair, but tainted at the core;
And from it thou shalt pluck the grapes of Art,
Which of themselves can never slake thy thirst;
And all the fruits of Science spring from it, —
Eat them thou shalt, with hunger unappeased.
But ever must thou wait the coming crop
To satisfy thy wants. This is my gift.”
She paused, and sowed the seeming-tiny seed.
The second Sister, with the mien of one
Who mocks, pretending friendship, smiled, and said,
“Let my boon, little godson, make thee great!
Let it incite thee to excel, to soar
And sing above thy fellows ! ” And she blew
Ambition’s orient bubble in my brain.
Then the third Sister, in whose haggard face
The wreck of beauty swam the waves of age,
Came to the cradle, looked at me, and stopped,
As one who bears irrevocable news
Delays a while to tell them. When she spoke,
A lover’s pity trembled in her words :
“ Life’s youngest hope ! my benison to thee!
Pilgrim and waif, too soon the knowledge comes
That Earth is vast and lonely. For thy mate
A Woman’s Image in thine inmost soul
Indelibly I cut; nor Time, nor thou,
May blot it out or mar. It is thy lot
To wander through the world and seek a face
To match thy soul’s presentment. By decree,
These eyes shall haunt thee when thou fathomest
The dark or purple eyes of half a race
Of women ; and distinctly from these lips,
Though Folly lure thee, and though Circe tempt,
A voice shall speak, — My Lover, come away,
Till thou shalt turn and listen. Books and throngs,
The stress of circumstance and pride of power,
And the strong urge of emulous desire
To trample evil for another’s good, —
These shall detain thee, but they may not keep.
“ Thy baffled yearning haply may create
In casual friend the semblance of thy Love, —
A pitiful illusion ! Sad, like it
The shadowy counterpart thy restless mind
May conjure from his hopes, and designate
To be in fancy worshiped for the true, —
This lifeless changeling shall thy passion scorn.
Oft thou shalt feel, but vaguely guess the cause,
Amid the heat of spectral merriment,
Cold, sudden pangs, as for a world bereaved ;
Tears shalt thou shed, that thine estate, the Earth,
Is but a film ensphering emptiness,
Which lately seemed an empire, boundless, bright,
Where Hope may mate him with heroic deeds,
And splendid Enterprise may kindle Will
To glory, as the sunrise kindles ocean.
Nay, even in thy triumphs thou shalt grieve,
And sigh the cheapness of success that lifts
You nothing nearer her. Yet evermore,
Above the victory, beyond despair,
Her smile shall teach reproof, encouragement.
“ At night, beneath the solemn stars and moon,
Thou shalt have inklings that thy Lady lives;
In forests dim, across the sea’s repose,
By vales of noon, near ever-youthful brooks,
Contented lakes, and islands slumberous,
And on the mountains which outspread their slopes
To hoard the golden bounty of the sun,
Thy heart shall cry, She lives ! The birds shall sing
Their hints of her ; the flowers murmur, Haste,
But now our Sister passed; thou shalt believe
The poets are her prophets ; thou shalt start
To hear her voice when violin or flute
Wafts notes ineffable on Music’s tide;
And when dead Beauty looketh down on thee
From out the fading Past, as angels shine
Upon believers, through the Future’s veil,
Thou shalt exclaim, ’ T is she ! The painter saw
Or dreamed my Love! I may not rest! On! On!
“ This, darling, is the destiny I grave
Upon thine inmost soul. Thy quest shall be
The pattern of this Image. Thou shalt search
Through all the dark and open ways of life,
Retreat, repose, despair prohibited ;
And often shalt thou think of Death itself
As of a stream upon whose farther bank
This Form, elusive, beautiful, and dear,
Thou shalt pursue no more.”
She softly kissed
My lips, and then departed with her mates.
The babe slept on, unconscious of his doom.
Paul Hermes.