By George Sterling

                To Ambrose Bierce

Ah! glad to thy decree I bow,
    From whose unquestioned hand did fall,
    Beyond a lesser to recall,
The solemn laurels on my brow.

I tremble with the splendid weight,
    To mine uwmorth 't is given to know
    How dread the charge I undergo
Who claim the holy Muse as mate.

Her altars lift incessant fire;
    She holds no truce with Death nor Peace;
    Till mind degrade and beauty cease,
She calls her chosen to the Lyre.

Remiss the ministry they bear
    Who serve her with divided heart;
    She stands relctant to impart
Her strength to purpose, end, or care.

Shall best I guard her hallowed light
    By sheltered service on her tow'rs,
    Or strife with Mammon and the pow'rs
That hold humanity in night?

I loose the choral trumpets gleam,
    But half its thunder leave untried;
    Midway on doubting vans I glide,
Nor hasten to the heights of dream.

A shadow o'er the vision runs;
    I hear a grieving from the lands
    Where Sorrow heavy-sceptred stands,
And moanings from the mist of suns.

Lo! men in weariness behold
    No respite from the toils of Time,
    Their children wander in the slime
Round Mammon's domes of plundered gold,

And taste the bitterness of dearth.
    Must they beyond my conscience wait,
    Or lack my voice as advocate
To cry their wrongs athwart the earth?

Shall Song, delinquent, win from life
    The light and rapture that she knows,
    And sleep at last where Lethe flows,
A stranger to the human strife?

Shall Art fare sunward, and disdain
    The patient hands that smooth her ways?
    Shall she, delighting, scorn to raise
The fallen on their path of pain?

So questiong, can I endure
    The peace of mine uplifted place?
    Accused and judge, I fear to face
The dumb tribunals of the poor.

But Doubt, in unrelenting quest,
    Upon the psychic whirlwind rides;
    Her potent moons advance the tides
That urge her maelstroins to unrest.

With virgin powers my spirit waits;
    Shall she, unequal, judge her God,
    Or trespass where His feet have trod
Whenas He wrought to arm His fates?

What hath been, is. What is, shall be.
    May man, presuming, intervene
    On what his Lords have long foreseen
And sealed unto eternity?

Shall Art annul and Song disclaim
    The laws that guard their deeper good?
    Or hold so little understood
The larger issues of their fame?

Can Song accord the light she brings
    In crypts where Beauty never woke?
    Share with Utility his yoke,
Yet roam her shy on lucent wings?

How darkly wait the silent years
    Wherein the Vision veils the End!
    May I, untroubled, comprehend
The truths that best are seen thro' tears?

Emotion smites with blinded aim;
    Religion seeks, a baffled wraith,
    The ignis fatuus of Faith,
And Learning tends a ruthless flame.

I, fearful of Unreason's drink,
    Avail me of a deeper sight,
    And turn me to thy clearer light,
In which as babes we others blink.

August, 1901

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