Last night, as one who hears a tragic jest,
I woke from dreams, half-laughing, half in tears;
Methought that I had journeyed in the spheres
And stood upon the Planet of the Blest
And found thereon a folk who prayed with zest
Exceeding, and through all their painful years
Like strong souls struggled on ‘mid hopes and fears;
“Where dwell the gods,” they said, “we shall find rest.”
The gods? What gods, I thought, are those who so
Inspire their worshippers with faith that flowers
Immortal? and who make them keep aglow
The flames forever on their altar-towers?
“Where dwell these gods of yours?” I asked–and lo!
They pointed upwards to this earth of ours!
Victor James Daley (1858 -1905)
This is a sonnet with rhyming scheme abba for the two quatrains with a clear turning point in the last six lines with rhyming scheme ababab.
How do ‘The Gods’ inspire faith immortal in their worshippers? The question asked in the last two lines is where these gods dwell and the last line gives that unexpected twist?
The ‘Gods on Earth’ inspire the worshippers – the Church or Churches implied. Well, the home of ‘The Gods’ is reversed and brought to ground in contrary to the opening lines which suggest the worshippers inhabit the heavens – the Planet of the blest.
I like a poem that makes you think in a different direction. How much is faith kept alive by fellow faith-holders on Earth rather than from above the skies? And for what purpose – I could be synical, there could be self-preservation involved. Consider the first line as one who hears a tragic jest.
Victor Daley was an Australian poet. His contemporaries were the bush ballad poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.