Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
Pessim
By Coates Kinney (1826–1904)
 
[Born in Kinney’s Corners, Yates County, N. Y., 1826. Died in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1904. Lyrics of the Ideal and the Real. 1887.]

TO think! to think and never rest from thinking!
To feel this great globe flying through the sky
And reckon by the rising and the sinking
Of stars how long to live, how soon to die!
 
This, this is life. Is life, then, worth the living?        5
This plotting for his freedom by the slave!
This agony of loving and forgiving!
This effort of the coward to be brave!
 
Our freedom! We are sin-scourged into being,
And ills of birth enslave us all our days;        10
No chance of flying and no way of fleeing,
Until the last chance and the end of ways.
 
We are walled in by darkness—wall behind us,
From whose sprung dungeon-gates Fate dragged us in,
And wall before us, where Fate waits to bind us        15
And thrust us out through swinging gates of sin.
 
But what is Fate? It is a mere breath spoken,
To echo clamoring between the walls
Of darkness—blind phrase uttered to betoken
This blind Unreason which our life enthralls.        20
 
Out through abysmal depths of heaven round us
We think our way past orbs of day and night,
Till skies of empty outer darkness bound us
And place and time are fixed pin-points of light;
 
But nowhere from the silent planets wheeling,        25
And nowhere from the thundering hell of suns,
And nowhere in the darkness comes revealing
Itself a Fate that through all being runs.
 
No ghostly presence, no mysterious voices,
The midnight of these infinite spaces thrill;        30
And even chaos flies hence and rejoices
To find and feel yon universe’s Will.
 
Thought follows chaos—nay, without the places
And times of matter globed and motion whirled,
Thought chaos is, a spread dead wing in space is,        35
Drifting for wafture somewhere toward a world.
*        *        *        *        *
Such thinkings are not Thought, they are but dreamings
Of what perchance may be itself but dream;
Our truths are to the Truth as moonlight’s gleamings
In dungeon are to open midnoon’s beam.        40
 
All worlds of matter, all the world of spirit,
How these are one, eternal, increate—
Soul cannot clutch it, sense come never near it;
It is unthinkable, and it is Fate!
 
 
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