All That Is Not Heaven Must Fade
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all
the earth; and they left off to build the city.
Genesis xi. 8
~The Rev. John Keble
SINCE all that is not Heaven must fade,
Light be the hand of Ruin laid
Upon the home I love:
With lulling spell let soft Decay
Steal on, and spare the giant sway,
The crash of tower and grove.
Far opening down some woodland deep
In their own quiet glade should sleep
The relics dear to thought,
And wild-flower wreaths from side to side
Their waving tracery hang, to hide
What ruthless Time has wrought.
Such are the visions green and sweet
That o’er the wistful fancy fleet
In Asia’s sea-like plain,
Where slowly, round his isles of sand,
Euphrates through the lonely land
Winds toward the pearly main.
Slumber is there, but not of rest;
There her forlorn and weary nest
The famished hawk has found,
The wild dog howls at fall of night,
The serpent’s rustling coils affright
The traveller on his round.
What shapeless form, half lost on high,
Half seen against the evening sky,
Seems like a ghost to glide,
And watch, from Babel’s crumbling heap,
Where in her shadow, fast asleep,
Lies fallen imperial Pride?
With half-closed eye a lion there
Is basking in his noontide lair,
Or prowls in twilight gloom.
The golden city’s king he seems,
Such as in old prophetic dreams
Sprang from rough ocean’s womb.
But where are now his eagle wings,
That sheltered erst a thousand kings,
Hiding the glorious sky
From half the nations, till they own
No holier name, no mightier throne?
That vision is gone by.
Quenched is the golden statue’s ray,
The breath of heaven has blown away
What toiling earth had piled,
Scattering wise heart and crafty hand,
As breezes strew on ocean’s sand
The fabrics of a child.
Divided thence through every age
Thy rebels, Lord, their warfare wage,
And hoarse and jarring all
Mount up their heaven-assailing cries
To Thy bright watchmen in the skies
From Babel’s shattered wall.
Thrice only since, with blended might
The nations on that haughty height
Have met to scale the Heaven:
Thrice only might a Seraph’s look
A moment’s shade of sadness brook—
Such power to guilt was given.
Now the fierce bear and leopard keen
Are perished as they ne’er had been,
Oblivion is their home:
Ambition’s boldest dream and last
Must melt before the clarion blast
That sounds the dirge of Rome.
Heroes and kings, obey the charm,
Withdraw the proud high-reaching arm,
There is an oath on high:
That ne’er on brow of mortal birth
Shall blend again the crowns of earth,
Nor in according cry
Her many voices mingling own
One tyrant Lord, one idol throne:
But to His triumphs soon
He shall descend, who rules above,
And the pure language of His love,
All tongues of men shall tune.
Nor let Ambition heartless mourn;
When Babel’s very ruins burn,
Her high desires may breathe;—
O’ercome thyself, and thou mayst share
With Christ His Father’s throne, and wear
The world’s imperial wreath.