Rolfe suddenly said, "is a long way
From Matthew; yet somehow he comes
To mind here--he and his fine tomes,
Which (change the gods) would serve to read
For modern essays. And indeed
His age was much like ours: doubt ran,
Faith flagged; negations which sufficed
Lawyer, priest, statesman, gentleman,
Not yet being popularly prized,
The augurs hence retained some state--
Which served for the illiterate.
Still, the decline so swiftly ran
From stage to stage that To Believe,
Except for slave or artisan,
Seemed heresy. Even doubts which met
Horror at first, grew obsolete,
And in a decade. To bereave
Of founded trust in Sire Supreme,
Was a vocation. Sophists throve--
Each weaving his thin thread of dream
Caesar his atheism avowed
Before the senate. But why crowd
Examples here: the gods were gone.
Tully scarce dreamed they could be won
Back into credence; less that earth
Ever could know yet mightier birth
Of deity. He died. Christ came.
And, in due hour, that impious Rome,
Emerging from vast wreck and shame,
Held the fore front of Christendom.
The inference?--the lesson?--come:
Let fools count on faith's closing knell--
Time, God, are inexhaustible.--"