Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN RERUM NATURA (WHILE SITTING BEFORE A LONDON FIRESIDE), by CARLTON KENDALL



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IN RERUM NATURA (WHILE SITTING BEFORE A LONDON FIRESIDE), by            
First Line: In a city of tolling bells
Last Line: Whence comes your laughter; where goes your tear?'
Subject(s): London; Men


In a city of tolling bells,
Where the yellow fog hangs low,
I sat and dreamed,
While the firelight gleamed
On a window white with snow.

'What is this thing that men call life?
What means this struggle of aching strife?
I asked in my moment of woe.
'Is it a breath in the ocean of space—
A glimmer, a glitter, a madcap's race
Where the limitless bounds of reason trace
Their white-streaked paths, then go?
Or is it a glorious phantasy—
A threshold of light to a garden gay,
Where myriad rainbows dance away
The silver hours—till lo!
The curtains part on a saffron sea,
Revealing the throne of God's majesty?'
I asked in my moment of woe.

But my firecoals gleamed, as they've always gleamed,
And my thoughts flew on while on I dreamed
Till at length I nodded—and then it seemed
That I heard a sound at my window pane
Like a flutter of wings, a patter of rain;
And turning about, I beheld afright
The form of an angel, spotless white,
Silhouetted against the night.
Its face was pale; its eyes aflame!
Its lips were silent. I shuddered in shame,
For I knew that it saw my wretched life.
Its gaze went through me like a knife
Stabbing my heart. I swooned, I gasped!
But, before I could speak, the vision passed,
And naught remained in the firelight's glow
But my window pane with its frosted snow.

I awakened and looked—but the room was bare!
'Tis nothing,' I said, 'but a plain nightmare.'

Then suddenly, in the coals, I read
The message the angel had left unsaid:
'The truth, oh man, is beyond your ken
While you wander about in the world of men.
Yet, someday perhaps, in a life to come
You may learn the figures and add the sum
While you tread the paths where the comets run,
Or kneel in homage before the One
Who guards the crystal ball of light
In the hall of amber ebonite.
And then, you may know what you ponder here—
Whence comes your laughter; where goes your tear?'





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