The Dying Atheist by Anonymous
Now closed around the deepening shades of death
And life with all its glory fades away,
Ere long those lips will yield the expiring breath,
And this worn frame be given to decay.
Such is the lot of everything that lives,
From humble worm to intellectual man;
Thus fades the flower that freshening fragrance gives,
Thus all things end even as all things began.
'Tis folly to ignore the many links
Which bind all creatures in one vast embrace,
Yet human pride in righteous horror shrinks
From owning kindred with the lower race.
But as from germs doth spring all life around,
So man from nobler germs his being draws,
With all his genius -- all his thoughts profound,
He yet must yield himself to Nature's laws.
Like frailest form of life that crawls the earth,
Man in his majesty must bow to fate,
And 'neath that ground which giveth all things birth,
Return at last to his primordial state.
So must I die, and so be laid at rest,
Inanimate as though I'd ne'er had been
No more entranced by joy, by care oppressed,
A withered mass, uncomely to be seen.
But yet I'm troubled by no Christian fears,
No lurid glow of hell lights up my path,
I shed no craven penitential tears,
Nor cry for succor from almighty wrath.
No blood-polluted god awaits my soul,
I would not have a god appeased by blood;
What though dark seas of death before me roll,
Can I not brave the depths of Jordan's flood?
Away, false fears, ye spectres of the mind,
Creations of the artful priests of yore,
Religion's quicksands I have left behind,
To plant my footsteps on truth's rocky shore.
And as I gaze upon the sea of life,
And see Death's valley far below me lie;
I feel assured I leave this worldly strife,
To rest in peace beneath that changeful sky.
The good I've wrought, perchance, may not bring forth,
Till 'mongst the living I've long ceased to be,
Then let mankind judge my humble worth,
And o'er my failings pass in charity.
And you my faithful friends I leave behind,
To perfect all which I have tried to do;
Raise up the weak, instruct the darkened mind,
Make gladness for the many--not the few.
Thus will I pass away, content in peace,
Knowing my trust is placed in worthy hands;
In patient labor you should never cease
To spread your light aboard to distant lands.
Now I must slumber, I am old and gray,
And fain would leave this scene of all my woe;
My one regret, that when I'm passed away,
Still struggling multitudes must come and go.
Strange darkness falls across my feeble eyes,
And short and rapid comes and goes my breath;
And now doth fade from view those azure skies,
Good-bye to all, I yield myself to death.
Behold he sleeps,--raise up his hoary head,
How calm and grave his last departing hours,
E'er many days we'll lay him with the dead,
And say farewell, and strew his grave with flowers.
Stultior stulto fuisti, qui tabellis crederes!