A clock aeonian, steady and tall,
With its back to creation’s flaming wall,
Stands at the foot of a dim, wide stair.
Swing, swang, its pendulum goes,
Its tick and its tack like the sledge-hammer blows
Of Tubal Cain, the mighty man!
But they strike on the anvil of never an ear,
On the heart of man and woman they fall,
With an echo of blessing, an echo of ban;
For each tick is a hope, each tack is a fear,
Each tick is a Where, each tack a Not here,
Each tick is a kiss, each tack is a blow,
Each tick says Why, each tack I don’t know.
Swing, swang, the pendulum!
Tick and tack, and go and come,
With a haunting, far-off, dreamy hum,
With a tick, tack, loud and dumb,
Swings the pendulum.
Two hands, together joined in prayer,
With a roll and a volley of spheric thunder;
Two hands, in hope spread half asunder,
An empty gulf of longing embrace;
Two hands, wide apart as they can fare
In a fear still coasting not touching Despair,
But turning again, ever round to prayer:
Two hands, human hands, pass with awful motion
From isle to isle of the sapphire ocean.
The silent, surfaceless ocean-face
Is filled with a brooding, hearkening grace;
The stars dream in, and sink fainting out,
And the sun and the moon go walking about,
Walking about in it, solemn and slow,
Solemn and slow, at a thinking pace,
Walking about in it to and fro,
Walking, walking about.
With open beak and half-open wing
Ever with eagerness quivering,
On the peak of the clock
Stands a cock:
Tip-toe stands the cock to crow–
Golden cock with silver call
Clear as trumpet tearing the sky!
No one yet has heard him cry,
Nor ever will till the hour supreme
When Self on itself shall turn with a scream,
What time the hands are joined on high
In a hoping, despairing, speechless sigh,
The perfect groan-prayer of the universe
When the darkness clings and will not disperse
Though the time is come, told ages ago,
For the great white rose of the world to blow:
–Tick, tack, to the waiting cock,
Tick, tack, goes the aeon-clock!
A polar bear, golden and gray,
Crawls and crawls around the top.
Black and black as an Ethiop
The great sea-serpent lies coiled beneath,
Living, living, but does not breathe.
For the crawling bear is so far away
That he cannot hear, by night or day,
The bourdon big of his deep bear-bass
Roaring atop of the silent face,
Else would he move, and none knows then
What would befall the sons of men!
Eat up old Time, O raging Bear;
Take Bald-head, and the children spare!
Lie still, O Serpent, nor let one breath
Stir thy pool and stay Time’s death!
Steady, Hands! for the noon is nigh:
See the silvery ghost of the Dawning shy
Low on the floor of the level sky!
Warn for the strike, O blessed Clock;
Gather thy clarion breath, gold Cock;
Push on the month-figures, pale, weary-faced Moon;
Tick, awful Pendulum, tick amain;
And soon, oh, soon,
Lord of life, and Father of boon,
Give us our own in our arms again!
Then the great old clock to pieces will fall
Sans groaning of axle or whirring of wheel.
And away like a mist of the morning steal,
To stand no more in creation’s hall;
Its mighty weights will fall down plumb
Into the regions where all is dumb;
No more will its hands, in horror or prayer,
Be lifted or spread at the foot of the stair
That springs aloft to the Father’s room;
Its tick and its tack, When?–Not now,
Will cease, and its muffled groan below;
Its sapphire face will dissolve away
In the dawn of the perfect, love-potent day;
The serpent and bear will be seen no more,
Growling atop, or prone on the floor;
And up the stair will run as they please
The children to clasp the Father’s knees.
O God, our father, Allhearts’ All,
Open the doors of thy clockless hall!