The Chase of Ages [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913) and Backblock Ballads and Later Verses (1918).]

The Chase of Ages

Light of my lives! Is the time not yet?
Lo, I’ve brooded on a star
Through many a year, with the hope held dear
That, in some future far,
I would know the joy of a love returned.
Are my lives lived vainly, all,
Since that cosmic morn when life, new-born,
First moved on this mundane ball?

Yea, I mind it yet, when first we met
On a tertiary rock,
Flow the graceful charm of your rudiments
Imparted love’s first shock.
But I was a mere organic cell
In that early Eocene,
While you were a prim, primordial germ,
And the mother of protogene.

So I loved and died, and the ages sped
Till the time of my second birth;
When I took my place in the cosmic race,
And again came down to earth.
Once more we met. Ah, love, not yet!
You were far above my state!
For how could I raise my mollusc gaze
To a virtuous vertebrate?

Again we died, and again we slept,
And again we came to be —
I as an anthropoidal ape,
And you as a chimpanzee.
You as a charming chimpanzee,
With a high, patrician air;
And I watched you waltz from tree to tree
As I slunk in my lowly lair.

And yet again, in an age or so,
We met, and I mind the sob
I sobbed when I found that I was — what?
And you were a thingumbob.
You had sold your tail for a kind of soul,
You had grown two thumbs beside;
And I knew again that my love was vain,
So I went to the woods and died.

As a humble homunculus, later on,
I crept to your cave at night,
And howled long, love-lorn howls in vain
To my lady troglodyte.
And I grew insane at your cold disdain,
And my howlings filled the place,
Till your father sought me out one night,
And — again I yearned in space.

Then, Light of my lives! Is the time not yet?
Say, in what distant life —
In what dim age that is still to come
May I win and call you wife?
Still high above! My love, my love!
Nay, how can I raise my eyes
To you, my Star of the Eocene,
My ever elusive prize?

Lo, Time speeds on, and the suns grow cold,
And the earth infirm and hoar,
And, ages past, we are here at last —
Ay, both on the earth once more.
But, alas, Dear Heart, as far apart
As e’er in this cosmic whirl;
For I’m but a lowly writer-man
And you are a tea-room girl.

C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 34-36

Previously published in:
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, Melbourne: E. W. Cole, [1913], pages 168-170

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