Pre-Existence

By Paul Hamilton Hayne

While sauntering through the crowded street
Some half-remembered face I meet,
Albeit upon no mortal shore
That face, methinks, hath smiled before.
Lost in a gay and festal throng
I tremble at some tender song
Set to an air whose golden bars
I must have heard in other stars.
In sacred aisles I pause to share
The blessing of a priestly prayer,
When the whole scene which greets mine eyes
In some strange mode I recognize.
As one whose every mystic part
I feel prefigured in my heart.
At sunset as I calmly stand
A stranger on an alien strand
Familiar as my childhood’s home
Seems the long stretch of wave and foam.
A ship sails toward me o’er the bay
And what she comes to do and say
I can foretell. A prescient lore
Springs from some life outlived of yore.
O swift, instructive, startling gleams
Of deep soul-knowledge: not as dreams
For aye ye vaguely dawn and die,
But oft with lightning certainty
Pierce through the dark oblivious brain
To make old thoughts and memories plain:
Thoughts which perchance must travel back
Across the wild bewildering track
Of countless aeons; memories far
High reaching as yon pallid star.
Unknown, scarce seen, whose flickering grace
Faints on the outmost rings of space.