My Play is Done

(Written in the Spring of 1895 in New York)

Ever rising, ever falling with the waves of time,
            still rolling on I go
From fleeting scene to scene ephemeral,
            with life’s currents’ ebb and flow.
Oh! I am sick of this unending force;
            these shows they please no more.
This ever running, never reaching,
            nor e’en a distant glimpse of shore!
From life to life I’m waiting at the gates,
            alas, they open not.
Dim are my eyes with vain attempt
            to catch one ray long sought.
On little life’s high, narrow bridge
            I stand and see below
The struggling, crying, laughing throng.
            For what? No one can know.
In front yon gates stand frowning dark,
            and say: “No farther way,
This is the limit; tempt not Fate,
            bear it as best you may;
Go, mix with them and drink this cup
            and be as mad as they.
Who dares to know but comes to grief;
            stop then, and with them stay.”
Alas for me. I cannot rest.
            This floating bubble, earth —
Its hollow form, its hollow name,
            its hollow death and birth —
For me is nothing. How I long
            to get beyond the crust
Of name and form! Ah! ope the gates;
            to me they open must.
Open the gates of light, O Mother, to me Thy tired son. 

I long, oh, long to return home!
            Mother, my play is done.
You sent me out in the dark to play,
            and wore a frightful mask;
Then hope departed, terror came,
            and play became a task.
Tossed to and fro, from wave to wave
            in this seething, surging sea
Of passions strong and sorrows deep,
            grief is, and joy to be,
Where life is living death, alas! and death —
            who knows but ’tis
Another start, another round of this old wheel
            of grief and bliss?
Where children dream bright, golden dreams,
            too soon to find them dust,
And aye look back to hope long lost
            and life a mass of rust!
Too late, the knowledge age doth gain;
            scarce from the wheel we’re gone
When fresh, young lives put their strength
            to the wheel, which thus goes on
From day to day and year to year.
            ‘Tis but delusion’s toy,
False hope its motor; desire, nave;
            its spokes are grief and joy.
I go adrift and know not whither.
            Save me from this fire!
Rescue me, merciful Mother, from floating with desire! 

Turn not to me Thy awful face,
            ’tis more than I can bear.
Be merciful and kind to me,
            to chide my faults forbear.
Take me, O Mother, to those shores
            where strifes for ever cease;
Beyond all sorrows, beyond tears,
            beyond e’en earthly bliss;
Whose glory neither sun, nor moon,
            nor stars that twinkle bright,
Nor flash of lightning can express.
            They but reflect its light.
Let never more delusive dreams
            veil off Thy face from me.
My play is done, O Mother,
            break my chains and make me free!

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