From the archives: a poem by Robert H. Hardoen (Sept. 6, 1895 – Dec. 4, 1958)

The Black Chemist To His Love.

Last night I read a quaint old book,
Of dreamy ancient lore,
In which some far off Magi claimed
That we had lived before.

And then I slept and sleeping dreamed
‘Mid strains of Minstrel lyre,
I saw the curtained centuries
Withdrawn by hands of fire.

An epic age in an infant world
Of giant ferns and flowers,
And a set of dusky forest kings
Were the only ruling powers.

You were a princess sweet and fair
And I a youthful sage,
Who sought to read the stars for kings
In that prehistoric age.

Along some moonlit aisle of palms
We strolled and watched the skies,
The same sweet smile on ruby lips,
The same light in those eyes.

I boiled the roots the sick deer ate
Whene’er the plague befell,
And tribesmen who were lying ill
Again grew sound and well.

But a sad day came as sad days come
To all who seek the truth,
For worship draped in spectral garb
O’erwhelmed the Afric youth.

The dark-limbed warriors gathered
For orgies on the strand,
Where the sea-ward rolling Niger
Washed the shores of Memnon’s land.

Loud rang the sage’s challenge, —
The tribe was silent then,
“Ye fools that bow to nothing,
Arise! be thinking men!”

Yells of rage broke from the crowd
Like cries in battle-storm —
A hundred arrows hissed and struck
Into that youthful form.

And so beneath the Afric skies
The rebel met his death
Because he scorned what mortals tho’t
Had given them their breath.

You died of broken heart, my dear,
And we lay side by side,
While the ages rolled above our heads
Like the surge of an ocean tide.

Again we live, again we love
‘Mid scenes our life endears,
Tho the gulf between that time and this
Is bridged by a million years!

And a white God sits where a black God sat
Enthroned in the minds of men,
But still I strive and still reject
The false today as then.

Within this quiet, dreary cell
O’er steaming flask and flame,
I watch a substance change and change
Yet still remain the same.

Will we live again, will we love again
Tho our frames return to dust?
I do not know, I cannot say
But the prophet says we must.

Poem by a young Robert H. Hardoen (1895-1958), written to his wife Margaret Watkins Hardoen (1896-1989). They are my grandparents.

Robert Hammond Hardoen
Robert Hammond Hardoen
Margaret Watkins Hardoen
Margaret Watkins Hardoen

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