Is It Come?

Is it come? They said, on the banks of the Nile,
who looked for the world’s long-promised day,
and saw but the strife of Egypt’s toil,
with the deserts sand and the granite gray.
From the pyramid, temple and treasured dead,
we vainly ask for her wisdom’s plan;
They tell us of the tyrant’s dread –
yet there was hope when that day began.

The Chaldee came with his starry lore,
and built up Babylon’s crown and creed;
and bricks were stamped on the Tigris shore
with signs which our sages can read.
From Ninu’s Temple and Nimrod’s Tower,
the rule of the Old East’s empire spread
unreasoning faith and unquestioned power –
but still, Is it come? The watched said.

The light of the Persian’s worshipped flame,
the ancient bondage its splendour threw;
and once, in the West, a sunrise came,
when Greece to her Freedom’s trust was true;
with dreams to the utmost ages dear,
with human gods and godlike men,
no marvel the far off day seemed near,
to eyes that looked through her laurels then.

The Romans conquered, and revelled too,
till honour, and faith, and power were gone;
and deeper old Europe’s darkness grew;
as wave after wave, the Goth came on.
The gown was learning, the sword was law,
the people served in the oxen stead;
but ever some gleam the watcher saw,
and ever more, Is it come? They said.

Poet and seer that question caught,
above the dim of life’s fears and frets;
it marched with letters, it toiled with thought,
through schools and creeds which the earth forgets.
And statesmen trifle, and priests deceive,
and traders barter our world away –
yet hearts to the golden promise cleave,
and still, at times, Is it come? they say.

The days of the nations bear no trace
of all the sunshine so far foretold;
the cannon speaks in the teacher’s place –
the age is weary with work and gold,
and high hopes wither and memories wane;
on hearts and altars the fires are dead,
but that brave faith hath not lives in vain –
and this is all that our watched said.

Frances Browne