Perhaps my favourite of Voltairine’s

I think this may just be my favourite poem from the Voltairine de Cleyre reader (2004), published by AK Press.

Toast to Despair (1892)

We have cried, – and the Gods are silent;
We have trusted, – and been betrayed;
We have loved, – and the fruit was ashes;
We have given, – the gift was weighed.

We know that the heavens are empty,
That friendship and love are names;
That truth is an ashen cinder,
The end of life’s burnt-out flames.

Vainly and long we have waited,
Through the night of the human roar,
For a single song on the harp of Hope,
Or a ray from a day-lit shore.

Songs aye come floating, marvelous sweet,
And bow-dyed flashes gleam;
But the sweets are Lies, and the weary feet
Run after a marsh-light beam.

In the hour of our need the song departs,
And the sea-moans of sorrow swell;
The siren mocks with a gurgling laugh
That is drowned in the deep death-knell.

The light we chased with our stumbling feet
As the goal of happier years,
Swings high and low and vanishes, –
The bow-dyes were of our tears.

God is a lie, and Faith is a lie,
And a tenfold lie is Love;
Life is a problem without a why,
And never a thing to prove.

It adds, and subtracts, and multiplies,
And divides without aim or end;
Its answers all false, though false-named true, –
Wife, husband, lover, friend.

We know it now, and we care no more;
What matters life or death?
We tiny insects emerge from earth,
Suffer, and yield our breath.

Like ants we crawl on our brief sand-hill,
Dreaming of ‘mighty things’, –
Lo, they crunch, like shells in the ocean’s wrath,
In the rush of Time’s awful wings.

The sun smiles gold, and the plants white,
And a billion stars smile, still;
Yet fierce as we, each wheels toward death,
And cannot stay his will.

The build, ye fools, your might things,
That Time shall set at naught;
Grow warm with the song the sweet Lie sings,
And the false bow your tears have wrought.

For us, a truce to Gods, loves, and hopes,
And a pledge to fire and wave;
A swifter whirl to the dance of death,
And a loud huzza for the Grave!

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry turnstile

One response to “Perhaps my favourite of Voltairine’s

  1. “For us, a truce to Gods, loves and hopes
    And a pledge to the fire and wave;
    A swifter whirl to the dance of death,
    And a loud Huzza for the grave!”

    – such a beautiful final stanza

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