Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Mankind’s Highest

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Mankind’s Highest

By William Roscoe Thayer (Paul Hermes) (1859–1923)

[Born in Boston, Mass., 1859. Died in Cambridge, Mass., 1923. The Confessions of Hermes, and Other Poems. 1884.]

A DREAM enticed the Spirit of the Earth,

And as, in sleep, fantastic shapes he chased,

The Hours slumbered and the Laws delayed.

When he awoke, behold! man’s puny race

He found had in the fleeting interval

Expired as silently as bubbles burst.

A smile of pity crossed the Spirit’s lips:

“To think the weaklings, if I nodded, died!

But, after all,” he said, “the tiny imps

Have startled from me many a hearty laugh.

My time would drag could I no longer see

The shifting scenes of Human Comedy.”

So men he made anew: and that the new

Might differ nowise from the elder breed,

He hunted, ’mid the ruins of the past,

A book wherein true types of men are drawn,

And from these patterns he refilled the globe.

Upon that book, O Shakespeare, was thy name.