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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

The Last Man

Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)

ALL worldly shapes shall melt in gloom,

The Sun himself must die,

Before this mortal shall assume

Its immortality!

I saw a vision in my sleep,

That gave my spirit strength to sweep

Adown the gulf of Time!

I saw the last of human mould

That shall creation’s death behold,

As Adam saw her prime!

The Sun’s eye had a sickly glare,

The Earth with age was wan,

The skeletons of nations were

Around that lonely man!

Some had expired in fight,—the brands

Still rusted in their bony hands;

In plague and famine some!

Earth’s cities had no sound nor tread;

And ships were drifting with the dead

To shores where all was dumb!

Yet, prophet-like, that lone one stood

With dauntless words and high,

That shook the sere leaves from the wood

As if a storm pass’d by,

Saying, ‘We are twins in death, proud Sun!

Thy face is cold, thy race is run,

’Tis Mercy bids thee go:

For thou ten thousand thousand years

Hast seen the tide of human tears,

That shall no longer flow.

‘What though beneath thee man put forth

His pomp, his pride, his skill;

And arts that made fire, flood, and earth,

The vassals of his will?—

Yet mourn I not thy parted sway,

Thou dim discrownèd king of day:

For all those trophied arts

And triumphs that beneath thee sprang,

Heal’d not a passion or a pang

Entail’d on human hearts.

‘Go, let Oblivion’s curtain fall

Upon the stage of men,

Nor with thy rising beams recall

Life’s tragedy again:

Its piteous pageants bring not back,

Nor waken flesh, upon the rack

Of pain anew to writhe:

Stretch’d in disease’s shapes abhorr’d,

Or mown in battle by the sword,

Like grass beneath the scythe.

‘Ev’n I am weary in yon skies

To watch thy fading fire;

Test of all sumless agonies,

Behold not me expire.

My lips that speak thy dirge of death—

Their rounded gasp and gurgling breath

To see thou shalt not boast.

The eclipse of Nature spreads my pall,—

The majesty of darkness shall

Receive my parting ghost!

‘This spirit shall return to Him

Who gave its heavenly spark;

Yet think not, Sun, it shall be dim

When thou thyself art dark!

No! it shall live again, and shine

In bliss unknown to beams of thine,

By Him recall’d to breath,

Who captive led Captivity,

Who robb’d the grave of Victory,—

And took the sting from Death!

‘Go, Sun, while Mercy holds me up

On Nature’s awful waste

To drink this last and bitter cup

Of grief that man shall taste—

Go, tell the Night that hides thy face,

Thou saw’st the last of Adam’s race,

On Earth’s sepulchral clod,

The darkening universe defy

To quench his Immortality,

Or shake his trust in God!’