Sic itur ad Astra [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Earthen Floor (1902).]


Sic itur ad Astra.

Men live to die, and die to live, and all the Earth
Is bound in endless chains of Life and Death and Birth.
Before me lies this dead man’s book, whose gilted glint
Of edge surrounds its sombre-looking lines of print;
But they are gold, of greater worth and finer gloss
Than aught that glows on treasured heaps of earthly dross.
No death is here! Immortal life — the life of Mind,
Eternal and unchanged, remains for aye behind;
The rest has fled — the fruitful brain that nursed the thought
And gave it words and sent it forth has fled, is naught:
The Man hath passed, the god remains; no need for tears,
His grander self shall live, enshrined within the years,
And speak in trumpet tones to Time, and, as it speeds,
The Age shall die the better for his life and deeds.
’Tis Change that moves the spheres and rolls the far-off stars,
That gilds the hills of Earth, and tints the seas of Mars;
’Tis Change, the bride of Time, who blendeth laugh and moan,
And walks in noiseless ways from zone to utmost zone;
’Tis Change that holds the hues of sunsets yet unborn,
And hangs the dew upon the cobweb in the morn;
’Tis Change that from the seed in time evolves the tree,
And then the flow’r, and then again the seed; To me
He is not dead — this book is he; from it I glean
A fuller knowledge of the “I” that now “hath been!”
I once was not, I am, some day I shall not be
’Twas Night, ’tis Light, then cometh — What? Eternity!
There is naught else that we can know, no other thing,
And so the Harp of Life hath but one single string;
But on that string depends the “Whence,” the “Where,” the “Why,”
The whence we come, the where we go, the why we die,
He struck that string, and in the world the stroke did tell.
For few who smote the Lyre of Life could smite so well
He sang to men; the tongue is mute that voiced the rhyme
But what he sang shall live — aye! long as liveth Time;
And in the days of which he spoke his name shall hold
The first among the new, the last among the old.
What doth the man who sings to men? He doth express
What all men feel of grief, or joy, or tenderness;
The scent of flowers, the notes of birds, the hues of wine,
The Lust of Nature and the breath of Love divine,
The tale of years to come, the legends of Romance,
The things of Art, the heroes’ deeds, the lute and dance,
And Hope and Faith, and love of good and hate of wrong,
And Thought, and Lore, and Self are blended in his song.
What is the man who sings to men? He is the Lyre
That speaks unto the World the Worlds’s unvoiced desire,
The tongue of what shall be, the pen of what hath been,
The index to that Heart of Things which beats — unseen,
He hath gone back again to-night, and in the dim,
Uncertain Shadowland there rose to welcome him
That sightless Greek who sang of Troy, and laurell’d Shades,
That once on Attic hills or deep in Tuscan glades
Did bind the classic wreathes, that bright, eternal Fame
Might keep alive, in after years, a lampless flame.
The Shadow fell, and loved and grey a bard has sped
To join the long procession of the Kingly Dead,
The great immortal Dead, the Dead that never die,
The Dead that still grow young as years on years roll by.
Then toll no bell, and weep no tear, but let no clod
Of slander fall upon the mem’ry of a god:
His life was good, his death was good, and now his pain
Hath ceased. He rests at last — He hath not lived in vain.

E. J. Brady, The Earthen Floor, Grafton (N.S.W.): Grip Newspaper Co., 1902

Editor’s notes:
aught = anything; anything at all, anything whatsoever

aye = [1] always, forever

aye = [2] yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

Shade = ghost; disembodied spirit

Shadowland = the land of the dead

Sic itur ad Astra = (Latin) “thus one goes to the stars” (meaning “such is the way to immortality”); from “Aeneid”, book IX (line 641) by Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70 BC – 19 BC)

sightless Greek who sang of Troy = Homer, the blind poet of ancient Greece, writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey (Demodocus, a character in Homer’s Odyssey, was a blind poet, and thus may have been created by Homer as a reflection of himself)

Old spelling in the original text:
blendeth (blends)
doth (does)
flow’r (flower)
hath (has)
liveth (lives)
’tis (it is)
’twas (it was)

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