Once I wandered far o’er lofty hills, with Paradise my quest,
Fearing aging, changing, dying, disappearing.
But the gilded treasure I had sought, in truth, it dwelt within;
‘Twas my Reaper had the treasure I was seeking.
I chased heaven, in my foolishness, thinking I could there escape
To a place where love and blessing were forever.
Then I touched infinity at last, and it turned all grace to ash;
I was shown that pain and loss alone make treasure.
That moment pried my fingers loose from ancient fantasy;
Yet — and yet! — I could not muster full surrender.
I saw beauty in my perishing, yet mortality cried out,
Hoping ‘gainst all hope for some eternal splendor.
My attachment set, I was caught between the truth of transience
And the the selfish drive to last a little longer.
What is priceless that is endless? but I could not see it then,
For the bitterness of loss, it seemed the stronger.
The shadow in that valley grim, it choked my voice with fear,
And Apollyon’s dread gaze, it set me trembling;
But for love of truth, I faced the demon, finding only then
That the beast was formed alone of my dissembling.
For a fleeting beat, I felt encompassed by the monster’s shriek,
But my own voice was source of all the screaming.
I was blinded by its deadly darts, or so my thoughts had guessed;
But the veil on my eyes was my own dreaming.
Once I took my shaking hands and pulled them from before my gaze,
My mortality, I saw, was not infernal.
“I will live,” I said, “but I will not fear oblivion’s embrace;
To be precious, being must not be eternal.”
O my fellow-trav’ler, hear me well: consider now the night,
How no star could shine without the cloak of darkness.
The dusky mantle of death enables brilliant points of light,
For there is no sweetness without bittersweetness.
We live ash to ash, and dust to dust, but destruction feeds rebirth;
We burn bright, but short, that others might burn after.
Man is born of fiery stellar death, the son of suns long gone,
And our tears today, they seed tomorrow’s laughter.
In the ever-renewed world I’ve found, O, Death! Where is thy sting?
The fear and superstition passes, slain by freedom’s ring!
Now transcendent grace and unity flash from every transient thing,
And the pow’r of death shall have no more dominion.