The Burden of Time

Original Text: 
Frederick George Scott, Poems (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1936): 5-7. PS 8487 C63 P6 1936 Robarts Library (signed by the author).
2    I reigned. I hung the universe in space,
3I capped earth's poles with ice to South and North,
4    And set the moving tides their bounds and place.
5I smoothed the granite mountains with my hand,
6    My fingers gave the continents their form;
7I rent the heavens and loosed upon the land
8    The fury of the whirlwind and the storm.
9I stretched the dark sea like a nether sky
10    Fronting the stars between the ice-clad zones;
11I gave the deep his thunder; the Most High
12    Knows well the voice that shakes His mountain thrones.
13I trod the ocean caverns black as night,
14    And silent as the bounds of outer space,
15And where great peaks rose darkly towards the light
16    I planted life to root and grow apace.
17Then through a stillness deeper than the grave's,
18    The coral spires rose slowly one by one,
19Until the white shafts pierced the upper waves
20    And shone like silver in the tropic sun.
21I ploughed with glaciers down the mountain glen,
22    And graved the iron shore with stream and tide;
23I gave the bird her nest, the lion his den,
24    The snake long jungle-grass wherein to hide.
25In lonely gorge and over hill and plain,
26    I sowed the giant forests of the world;
27The great earth like a human heart in pain
28    Has quivered with the meteors I have hurled.
29I plunged whole continents beneath the deep,
30    And left them sepulchred a million years;
31I called, and lo, the drowned lands rose from sleep,
32    Sundering the waters of the hemispheres.
33I am the lord and arbiter of man --
34    I hold and crush between my finger-tips
35Wild hordes that drive the desert caravan,
36    Great nations that go down to sea in ships.
37In sovereign scorn I tread the races down,
38    As each its puny destiny fulfils,
39On plain and island, or where huge cliffs frown,
40    Wrapt in the deep thought of the ancient hills.
41The wild sea searches vainly round the land
42    For those proud fleets my arm has swept away;
43Vainly the wind along the desert sand
44    Calls the great names of kings who once held sway.
46    Are fallen -- like ripe ears at harvest-tide;
47I set my heel upon their pomp and state,
48    The people's serfdom and the monarch's pride.
49One doom waits all -- art, speech, law, gods, and men,
50    Forests and mountains, stars and shining sun, --
51The hand that made them shall unmake again,
52    I curse them and they wither one by one.
53Waste altars, tombs, dead cities where men trod,
54    Shall roll through space upon the darkened globe,
55Till I myself be overthrown, and God
56    Cast off creation like an outworn robe.


1] "Written in my garden in Quebec. Time is the greatest force in the universe, and to it all others are subservient." (Collected Poems [Vancouver: Clarke and Stuart, 1934]: 176). Back to Line
45] Nineveh: Assyrian city found in modern Iraq on the Tigris river on the other side from Mosul. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.