The Skull of Shakespeare

By George Sterling


Without how small, within how strangely vast!
    What stars of terror had their path in thee!
    What music of the heavens and the sea
Lived in a sigh or thundered on the blast!
Here swept the gleam and pageant of the Past,
    As Beauty trembled to her fate's decree;
    Here swords were forged for armies yet to be,
And tears were found too dreadful not to last.

Here stood the seats of judgment and its light,
    To whose assizes all our dreams were led—
        Our best and worst, our Paradise and Hell;
And in this room delivered now to night,
    The mortal put its question to the dead,
        And worlds were weighed, and God's deep shadow fell.


Here an immortal river had its rise,
    Tho dusty now the fountain whence it ran
    So swift and beautiful with good to man.
Here the foundation of an empire lies—
The ruins of a realm seen not with eyes,
    That now the vision of a gnat could scan.
    Here wars were fought within a little span,
Whose echoes yet resound on human skies.

Life, on her rainbow road from dust to dust,
    Spilt here her wildest iris, still thine own,
        Master, and with thy soul and ashes one !
Thy wings are distant from our years of lust,
    Yet he who liveth not by bread alone
        Shall see thee as that angel in the sun.

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