Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VII. Death: Immortality: Heaven
The Last Man
Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)
 
ALL worldly shapes shall melt in gloom,
The Sun himself must die,
Before this mortal shall assume
  Its immortality!
I saw a vision in my sleep,        5
That gave my spirit strength to sweep
  Adown the gulf of time!
I saw the last of human mould
That shall creation’s death behold,
  As Adam saw her prime!        10
 
The sun’s eye had a sickly glare,
The skeletons of nations were
  Around that lonely man!
Some had expired in fight,—the brands
Still rusted in their bony hands,        15
  In plague and famine some!
Earth’s cities had no sound nor tread;
And ships were drifting with the dead
  To shores where all was dumb!
 
Yet, prophet-like, that lone one stood,        20
  With dauntless words and high,
That shook the sear leaves from the wood,
  As if a storm passed by,
Saying, We are twins in death, proud Sun!
Thy face is cold, thy race is run,        25
  ’T is Mercy bids thee go;
For thou ten thousand thousand years
Hast seen the tide of human tears,
  That shall no longer flow.
 
What though beneath thee man put forth        30
  His pomp, his pride, his skill;
And arts that made fire, flood, and earth
  The vassals of his will?
Yet mourn I not thy parted sway,
Thou dim, discrownèd king of day;        35
  For all those trophied arts
And triumphs that beneath thee sprang,
Healed not a passion or a pang
  Entailed on human hearts.
 
Go, let oblivion’s curtain fall        40
  Upon the stage of men,
Nor with thy rising beams recall
  Life’s tragedy again:
Its piteous pageants bring not back,
Nor waken flesh, upon the rack        45
  Of pain anew to writhe;
Stretched in disease’s shapes abhorred,
Or mown in battle by the sword,
  Like grass beneath the scythe.
 
Even I am weary in yon skies        50
  To watch thy fading fire;
Test of all sumless agonies,
  Behold not me expire.
My lips, that speak thy dirge of death,—
Their rounded gasp and gurgling breath        55
  To see thou shalt not boast.
The eclipse of Nature spreads my pall,
The majesty of darkness shall
  Receive my parting ghost!
 
This spirit shall return to Him        60
  Who gave its heavenly spark;
Yet think not, Sun, it shall be dim
  When thou thyself art dark!
No! it shall live again, and shine
In bliss unknown to beams of thine,        65
  By Him recalled to breath,
Who captive led captivity,
Who robbed the grave of victory,
  And took the sting from death!
 
Go, Sun, while mercy holds me up        70
  On Nature’s awful waste
To drink this last and bitter cup
  Of grief that man shall taste,—
Go, tell the night that hides thy face,
Thou saw’st the last of Adam’s race,        75
  On earth’s sepulchral clod,
The darkening universe defy
To quench his immortality,
  Or shake his trust in God!
 
 
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