Friday, September 23, 2016

The Darkest, Gloomiest Birthday Poem Ever (1895)

A BIRTHDAY REVERIE By Maximus A. Lesser 1895 (from Echoes of Halcyon Days)
(To Mrs. L.S.)

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Time turns the old days to derision,
Our loves into corpses or wives;
And marriage and death and division
Make barren our lives.
-SWINBURNE: Dolores.

METHINKS that all months are December,
And but meshes the days in Time's net,
And I wonder that you should remember
The day I prefer to forget.

Our birthdays but mile-stones to graves are-
Like millstones they grind us to earth-
To Fate we poor mortals but slaves are,
All chained to the glebe of our birth.

We grab at the shadows called pleasures,
And follow the phantom termed love,
And cant in monotonous measures
Of the bliss that abides us above.

'Tis vanity all! said the psalmist,
Life 's fleeting and fickle and false:
And happiest he who is calmest
At heart-whom no passion enthrals.

The callous, the cool, the collected,
Who shake off the storm-drops like drakes,
Are the ones by the crowd most respected
And gather in life's choicest stakes.

The Faust who betrays his ideal,
The Jekyll transmuted to Hyde,
Are types of the life that is real,
In whose worship the worldly take pride.

The crushing of crass competition,
The glorification of gold,
The homage to boundless ambition,
The fashioning from commonest mould

Of those who are chosen to rule us
In county and city and state—
Who half do coerce and half fool us
Into deeming them wise men and great-

Are the earmarks of our generation,
The birthright of this our race,
Which red-letter days' celebration
Can neither conceal nor efface.

The passions that fester and rankle,
The cavils that canker the soul,
Are things that but stoics with tranquil
Contempt for life's lapses control.

What boots it with Fortune to quarrel,
Avails it to bicker with Fate?
Ad finem Death's lasso will corral
The little as well as the great.

The bones of the lowly will rattle
Like those of the mighty, at doom;
The end of the fiercest fought battle
Is ever the quietest tomb.

Hence I gaze on the grate's glowing embers,
Evoking gaunt shadows of jet,
And marvel your fancy remembers
The day that I fain would forget. —1895

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