I have been down in a dark valley;
I have been groping through a deep gorge;
Far above, the lips of it were rimmed with moon-
light,
And here and there the light lay on the dripping
rocks
So that it seemed they dripped with moonlight,
not with water;
So deep it was, that narrow gash among the hills,
That those great pines which fringed its edge
Seemed to me no larger than upthrust fingers
Silhouetted against the sky;
And at its top the vale was strait,
And the rays were slant
And reached but part way down the sides;
I could not see the moon itself;
I walked through darkness, and the valley's edge
Seemed almost level with the stars,
The stars that were like fireflies in the little trees.

It was the midnight of defeat;
I felt that I had failed;
I was mocked of the gods;
There was no way out of that gorge;
The paths led no whither
And I could not remember their beginnings;
I was doomed to wander evermore,
Thirsty, with the sound of mocking waters in
mine ears,
Groping, with gleams of useless light
Splashed in ironic beauty on the rocks above.
And so I whined.

And then despair flashed into rage;
I leapt erect, and cried:
“Could I but grasp my life as sculptors grasp the clay
And knead and thrust it into shape again!-
If all the scorn of Heaven were but thrown
Into the focus of some creature I could clutch!-
If something tangible were but vouchsafed me
By the cold, far gods!-
If they but sent a Reason for the failure of my life
I'd answer it;
If they but sent a Fiend, I'd conquer it!-

But I reach out, and grasp the air,
I rage, and the brute rock echoes my words in
mockery-
How can one fight the sliding moonlight on the cliffs?
You gods, coward gods,
Come down, I challenge you!-
You who set snares with roses and with passion,
You who make flesh beautiful and damn men through
the flesh,
You who plump the purple grape and then put poison
in the cup,
You who put serpents in your Edens,
You who gave me delight of my senses and broke me
for it,
You who have mingled death with beauty,
You who have put into my blood the impulses for
which you cursed me,
You who permitted my brain the doubts wherefore
you damn me,
Behold, I doubt you, gods, no longer, but defy!-
I perish here?
Then I will be slain of a god!
You who have wrapped me in the scorn of your silence,
The divinity in this same dust you flout

i>Flames through the dust,
And dares,
And flings you back your scorn,-
Come, face to face, and slay me if you will,
But not until you've felt the weight
Of all betricked humanity's contempt
In one bold blow!-
Speak forth a Reason, and I will answer it,
Yes, to your faces I will answer it;
Come garmented in flesh and I will fight with you,
Yes, in your faces will I smite you, gods;
Coward gods and tricksters that set traps
In paradise!-
Far gods that hedge yourselves about with silence
And with distance;
That mock men from the unscalable escarpments of
your Heavens.”

Thus I raved, being mad.
I had no sooner finished speaking than I felt
The darkness fluttered by approaching feet,
And the silence was burned through by trembling
flames of sound,
And I was 'ware that Something stood by me.

And with a shout I leapt and grasped that Being,
And the Thing grasped me.
We came to wrestling grips,
And back and forth we swayed,
Hand seeking throat, and crook'd knee seeking
To encrook unwary leg,
And spread toes grasping the uneven ground;
The strained breast muscles cracked and creaked,
The sweat ran in my eyes,
The plagued breath sobbed and whistled through
my throat,
I tasted blood, and strangled, but still struggled
on-
The stars above me danced in swarms like yellow
bees,
The shaken moonlight writhed upon the rocks;-
But at the last I felt his breathing weaker grow,
The tense limbs grow less tense,
And with a bursting cry I bent his head right
back,
Back, back, until
I heard his neck bones snap;
His spine crunched in my grip;
I flung him to the earth and knelt upon his breast

And listened till the fluttering pulse was stilled.
Man, god, or devil, I had wrenched the life from
him!

And lo!-even as he died
The moonlight failed above the vale,-
And somehow, sure, I know now how!-
Between the rifted rocks the great Sun struck
A finger down the cliff, and that red beam
Lay sharp across the face of him that I had slain;
And in that light I read the answer of the silent
gods
Unto my cursed-out prayer,
For he that lay upon the ground was-I!
I understood the lesson then;
It was myself that lay there gone;
Yes, I had slain my Self.