Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NECESSITY, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON

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NECESSITY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the ancestral presence of the dead
Last Line: Till the stern tide ebbs -- and there is the grave.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia

In the ancestral presence of the dead
Sits a lone power -- a veil upon the head,
Stern with the terror of an unseen dread.
It sitteth cold, immutable, and still,
Girt with eternal consciousness of ill,
And strong and silent as its own dark will.

We are the victims of its iron rule,
The warm and beating human heart its tool;
And man, immortal, godlike, but its fool.

We know not of its presence, though its power
Be on the gradual round of every hour,
Now flinging down an empire, now a flower.

And all things small and careless are its own,
Unwittingly the seed minute is sown, --
The tree of evil out of it is grown.

At times we see and struggle with our chain,
And dream that somewhat we are freed, in vain;
The mighty fetters close on us again.

We mock our actual strength with lofty thought,
And towers that look into the heavens are wrought, --
But after all our toil the task is nought.

Down comes the stately fabric, and the sands
Are scatter'd with the work of myriad hands,
High o'er whose pride the fragile wild-flower stands.

Such are the wrecks of nations and of kings,
Far in the desert, where the palm-tree springs;
'Tis the same story in all meaner things.

The heart builds up its hopes, though not addrest
To meet the sunset glories of the west,
But garnered in some still, sweet-singing nest.

But the dark power is on its noiseless way,
The song is silent so sweet yesterday,
And not a green leaf lingers on the spray.

We mock ourselves with freedom, and with hope,
The while our feet glide down life's faithless slope;
One has no strength, the other has no scope.

So we are flung on Time's tumultuous wave,
Forced there to struggle, but denied to save,
Till the stern tide ebbs -- and there is the grave.

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