Stonehenge (poem)

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Voltairine de Cleyre

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Stonehenge, above thy solemn plain.
The canopy of gray still drifts,
Now trailing down its fringe of rain,
Or dropping gleams athwart its rifts,
Whereto the soul of man uplifts
Its answering flash through gray despair,-
So through the ashen ages sifts,
In gleam and gloom
The seed and bloom
And fruitage of unending prayer.
Unending prayer and sacrifice
To what gray gods there be on high,
Who silent take the costly price,
Yonder within their dumb, dull sky;
Moveless they watched thy victims die
Here on this strange-stained altar stone,
Sphynx-silent to the eternal "Why"
Of hopeless pain
That beat in vain
At this cold footstool of their throne.
Stonehenge, the empire's passed from thee,
Thou ruin of an outworn fear!
Thy oak-crowned priests are mockery,
And dry as thy last victim's tear.
Lo, for this many a thousand year
The moss eats wrinkles in thy stone:
And sheep-bells tinkle there and here,—
Light music-falls.
Like laughter-calls,
Life's echo of Death's risen groan.
But still the gods, the gods above,
The gods that neither move nor sleep.—
For Tyranny is strong as Love—
Take toll of all that laugh or weep;
And far across the centuries' sweep
The knife yet gleams in lifted hands;
Though the gray plain
Have drunk thy stain,
The Sphynx still gazes o'er the sands.
Still the eternal question waits
Before the door of Human Birth,
Relentless as its narrow gates,
Whereon is graven "Go ye forth!"
And still the gleaming hope of earth,
Flames from the altar's awful rust:
"The gods will yield;"
The doom is sealed.
And a new victim dashed to dust.
Lo, all the altars of the world.
Whereat men kneeling wreathe about
In circles of bent bodies, curled
For pain, wrest not the secret out.
Yet—yet—these Druid stones are stout—
But see! the mosses hurl the stone!
Shall Faith not wear
The gods? Lo, there—
Strike! The Last Outguard Lights! THE SUN!

Voltairine de Cleyre, “Stonehenge,” The Open Court 18, no. 11 (November 1904): 699-700.


The poem "Stonehenge," which appeared in the November number of The Open Court, is by Miss Voltairine de Cleyre of Philadelphia. The author's name was omitted by mistake, and this seems to be due to the fact that it did not appear in the manuscript.

Editor, “‘Stonehenge,’ errata,” The Open Court 18, no. 12 (December 1904): 768.