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The World's Best Poetry Volume IV. by Bliss Carman

Part 5 out of 9

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"I ask no organ's soulless breath
To drone the themes of life and death,
No altar candle-lit by day,
No ornate wordsman's rhetoric-play,
No cool philosophy to teach
Its bland audacities of speech
To double-tasked idolaters,
Themselves their gods and worshippers,
No pulpit hammered by the fist
Of loud-asserting dogmatist,
Who borrows for the hand of love
The smoking thunderbolts of Jove.
I know how well the fathers taught,
What work the later schoolmen wrought;
I reverence old-time faith and men,
But God is near us now as then;
His force of love is still unspent,
His hate of sin as imminent;
And still the measure of our needs
Outgrows the cramping bounds of creeds;
The manna gathered yesterday
Already savors of decay;
Doubts to the world's child-heart unknown
Question us now from star and stone;
Too little or too much we know,
And sight is swift and faith is slow;
The power is lost to self-deceive
With shallow forms of make-believe.
We walk at high noon, and the bells
Call to a thousand oracles,
But the sound deafens, and the light
Is stronger than our dazzled sight;
The letters of the sacred Book
Glimmer and swim beneath our look;
Still struggles in the Age's breast
With deepening agony of quest
The old entreaty: 'Art thou He,
Or look we for the Christ to be?'

"God should be most where man is least;
So, where is neither church nor priest,
And never rag of form or creed
To clothe the nakedness of need,--
Where farmer-folk in silence meet,--
I turn my bell-unsummoned feet;
I lay the critic's glass aside,
I tread upon my lettered pride,
And, lowest-seated, testify
To the oneness of humanity;
Confess the universal want,
And share whatever Heaven may grant.
He findeth not who seeks his own,
The soul is lost that's saved alone.
Not on one favored forehead fell
Of old the fire-tongued miracle,
But flamed o'er all the thronging host
The baptism of the Holy Ghost;
Heart answers heart: in one desire
The blending lines of prayer aspire;
'Where, in my name, meet two or three,'
Our Lord hath said, 'I there will be!'

"So sometimes comes to soul and sense
The feeling which is evidence
That very near about us lies
The realm of spiritual mysteries.
The sphere of the supernal powers
Impinges on this world of ours.
The low and dark horizon lifts,
To light the scenic terror shifts;
The breath of a diviner air
Blows down the answer of a prayer:--
That all our sorrow, pain, and doubt
A great compassion clasps about,
And law and goodness, love and force,
Are wedded fast beyond divorce.
Then duty leaves to love its task,
The beggar Self forgets to ask;
With smile of trust and folded hands,
The passive soul in waiting stands
To feel, as flowers the sun and dew,
The One true Life its own renew.

"So, to the calmly gathered thought
The innermost of truth is taught,
The mystery dimly understood,
That love of God is love of good,
And, chiefly, its divinest trace
In Him of Nazareth's holy face;
That to be saved is only this,--
Salvation from our selfishness,
From more than elemental fire,
The soul's unsanctified desire,
From sin itself, and not the pain
That warns us of its chafing chain;
That worship's deeper meaning lies
In mercy, and not sacrifice,
Not proud humilities of sense
And posturing of penitence,
But love's unforced obedience;
That Book and Church and Day are given
For man, not God,--for earth, not heaven,--
The blessed means to holiest ends,
Not masters, but benignant friends;
That the dear Christ dwells not afar,
The king of some remoter star,
Listening, at times, with flattered ear,
To homage wrung from selfish fear,
But here, amidst the poor and blind,
The bound and suffering of our kind,
In works we do, in prayers we pray,
Life of our life, He lives to-day."


* * * * *


Nor in the world of light alone,
Where God has built his blazing throne,
Nor yet alone in earth below,
With belted seas that come and go,
And endless isles of sunlit green,
Is all thy Maker's glory seen:
Look in upon thy wondrous frame,--
Eternal wisdom still the same!

The smooth, soft air with pulse-like waves
Flows murmuring through its hidden caves,
Whose streams of brightening purple rush,
Fired with a new and livelier blush,
While all their burden of decay
The ebbing current steals away,
And red with Nature's flame they start
From the warm fountains of the heart.

No rest that throbbing slave may ask,
Forever quivering o'er his task,
While far and wide a crimson jet
Leaps forth to fill the woven net
Which in unnumbered crossing tides
The flood of burning life divides,
Then, kindling each decaying part,
Creeps back to find the throbbing heart.

But warmed with that unchanging flame
Behold the outward moving frame,
Its living marbles jointed strong
With glistening band and silvery thong,
And linked to reason's guiding reins
By myriad rings in trembling chains,
Each graven with the threaded zone
Which claims it as the Master's own.

See how yon beam of seeming white
Is braided out of seven-hued light,
Yet in those lucid globes no ray
By any chance shall break astray.
Hark, how the rolling surge of sound,
Arches and spirals circling round,
Wakes the hushed spirit through thine ear
With music it is heaven to hear.

Then mark the cloven sphere that holds
All thought in its mysterious folds,
That feels sensation's faintest thrill,
And flashes forth the sovereign will;
Think on the stormy world that dwells
Locked in its dim and clustering cells!
The lightning gleams of power it sheds
Along its hollow glassy threads!

O Father! grant thy love divine
To make these mystic temples thine!
When wasting age and wearying strife
Have sapped the leaning walls of life,
When darkness gathers over all,
And the last tottering pillars-fall,
Take the poor dust thy mercy warms,
And mould it into heavenly forms!


* * * * *


A Fole he is and voyde of reason
Whiche with one hounde tendyth to take
Two harys in one instant and season;
Rightso is he that wolde undertake
Hym to two lordes a servaunt to make;
For whether that he be lefe or lothe,
The one he shall displease, or els bothe.

A fole also he is withouten doute,
And in his porpose sothly blyndyd sore,
Which doth entende labour or go aboute
To serve god, and also his wretchyd store
Of worldly ryches: for as I sayde before,
He that togyder will two maysters serve
Shall one displease and nat his love deserve.

For be that with one hounde wol take also
Two harys togyther in one instant
For the moste parte doth the both two forgo,
And if he one have: harde it is and skant
And that blynd fole mad and ignorant
That draweth thre boltis atons[A] in one bowe
At one marke shall shote to[o] high or to[o] lowe.
He that his mynde settyth god truly to serve
And his sayntes: this worlde settynge at nought
Shall for rewarde everlastynge joy deserve,
But in this worlde he that settyth his thought
All men to please, and in favour to be brought,
Must lout and lurke, flater, laude, and lye:
And cloke in knavys counseyll, though it fals be.

Wherfore I may prove by these examples playne
That it is better more godly and plesant
To leve this mondayne casualte and payne
And to thy maker one god to be servaunt.
Which whyle thou lyvest shall nat let the want
That thou desyrest justly, for thy syrvyce,
And than after gyve the, the joyes of Paradyse.

From the German of SEBASTIAN BRANDT.


[Footnote A: At once.]

* * * * *


He stood before the Sanhedrim;
The scowling rabbis gazed at him;
He recked not of their praise or blame;
There was no fear, there was no shame
For one upon whose dazzled eyes
The whole world poured its vast surprise.
The open heaven was far too near,
His first day's light too sweet and clear,
To let him waste his new-gained ken
On the hate-clouded face of men.

But still they questioned, Who art thou?
What hast thou been? What art thou now?
Thou art not he who yesterday
Sat here and begged beside the way,
For he was blind.
_And I am he;
For I was blind, but now I see_.

He told the story o'er and o'er;
It was his full heart's only lore;
A prophet on the Sabbath day
Had touched his sightless eyes with clay,
And made him see, who had been blind.
Their words passed by him like the wind
Which raves and howls, but cannot shock
The hundred-fathom-rooted rock.

Their threats and fury all went wide;
They could not touch his Hebrew pride;
Their sneers at Jesus and his band,
Nameless and homeless in the land,
Their boasts of Moses and his Lord,
All could not change him by one word.

_I know not that this man may be,
Sinner or saint; but as for me,
One thing I know, that I am he
Who once was blind, and now I see_.

They were all doctors of renown,
The great men of a famous town,
With deep brows, wrinkled, broad, and wise,
Beneath their wide phylacteries;
The wisdom of the East was theirs,
And honor crowned their silver hairs;
The man they jeered and laughed to scorn
Was unlearned, poor, and humbly born;
But he knew better far than they
What came to him that Sabbath day;
And what the Christ had done for him,
He knew, and not the Sanhedrim.


* * * * *


Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first I was made:
Our times are in his hand
Who saith "A whole I planned
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"

Not that, amassing flowers,
Youth sighed, "Which rose make ours,
Which lily leave and then as best recall?"
Not that, admiring stars,
It yearned, "Nor Jove, nor Mars;
Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"

Not for such hopes and fears,
Annulling youth's brief years,
Do I remonstrate--folly wide the mark!
Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without,
Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

Poor vaunt of life indeed,
Were man but formed to feed
On joy, to solely seek and find and feast:
Such feasting ended, then
As sure an end to men;
Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?

Rejoice we are allied
To That which doth provide
And not partake, effect and not receive!
A spark disturbs our clod;
Nearer we hold of God
Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe.

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!
Be our joys three parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence--a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks--
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.

What is he but a brute
Whose flesh hath soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test--
Thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?

Yet gifts should prove their use:
I own the Past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once, "How good to live and learn?"

Not once beat "Praise be Thine!
I see the whole design,
I, who saw Power, shall see Love perfect too:
Perfect I call Thy plan:
Thanks that I was a man!
Maker, remake, complete--I trust what Thou shalt do!"

For pleasant is this flesh;
Our soul, in its rose-mesh
Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest:
Would we some prize might hold
To match those manifold
Possessions of the brute--gain most, as we did best!

Let us not always say,
"Spite of this flesh to-day.
I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!"
As the bird wings and sings,
Let us cry, "All good things
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"

Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,
Life's struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removed
From the developed brute; a God though in the germ.

And I shall thereupon
Take rest, ere I be gone
Once more on my adventure brave and new:
Fearless and unperplexed,
When I wage battle next,
What weapons to select, what armor to indue.

Youth ended, I shall try
My gain or loss thereby;
Be the fire ashes, what survives is gold:
And I shall weigh the same.
Give life its praise or blame:
Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old.

For note, when evening shuts,
A certain moment cuts
The deed off, calls the glory from the gray:
A whisper from the west
Shoots--"Add this to the rest,
Take it and try its worth: here dies another day."

So, still within this life,
Though lifted o'er its strife,
Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last,
"This rage was right i' the main,
That acquiescence vain:
The Future I may face now I have proved the Past."

For more is not reserved
To man, with soul just nerved
To act to-morrow what he learns to-day:
Here, work enough to watch
The Master work, and catch
Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's true play.
As it was better, youth
Should strive, through acts uncouth,
Toward making, than repose on aught found made;
So, better, age, exempt
From strife, should know, than tempt
Further. Thou waitedst age; wait death nor be afraid!

Enough now, if the Right
And Good and Infinite
Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own,
With knowledge absolute,
Subject to no dispute
From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone.

Be there, for once and all,
Severed great minds from small,
Announced to each his station in the Past!
Was I, the world arraigned,
Were they, my soul disdained,
Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!

Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive:
Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They, this thing, and I, that: whom shall my soul believe?

Not on the vulgar mass
Called "work," must sentence pass,
Things done, that took the eye and had the price;
O'er which, from level stand,
The low world laid its hand,
Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:

But all, the world's coarse thumb
And finger failed to plumb,
So passed in making up the main account;
All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:

Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be,
All, men ignored in me,
This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.

Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast; why passive lies our clay,--
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"

Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
_That_ was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops; Potter and clay endure.

He fixed thee 'mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.

What though the earlier grooves
Which ran the laughing loves
Around thy base, no longer pause and press?
What though, about thy rim,
Scull-things in order grim
Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress?

Look not thou down, but up!
To uses of a cup,
The festal board, lamp's flash, and trumpet's peal,
The new wine's foaming flow,
The Master's lips aglow!
Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what needst thou with earth's wheel?

But I need, now as then,
Thee, God, who mouldest men;
And since, not even while the whirl was worst,
Did I--to the wheel of life
With shapes and colors rife,
Bound dizzily--mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:

So, take and use Thy work!
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in _Thy_ hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!


* * * * *



He was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true church militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery,
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
Call fire, and sword, and desolation
A godly, thorough Reformation,
Which always must be carried on
And still be doing, never done;
As if religion were intended
For nothing else but to be mended.
A sect whose chief devotion lies
In odd perverse antipathies;
In falling out with that or this,
And finding somewhat still amiss;
More peevish, cross, and splenetic,
Than dog distract, or monkey sick;
That with more care keep holiday
The wrong than others the right way;
Compound for sins they are inclined to,
By damning those they have no mind to;
Still so perverse and opposite,
As if they worshipped God for spite;
The self-same thing they will abhor
One way, and long another for.


* * * * *


I like a church; I like a cowl;
I love a prophet of the soul;
And on my heart monastic aisles
Fall like sweet strains or pensive smiles;
Yet not for all his faith can see
Would I that cowled churchman be.
Why should the vest on him allure,
Which I could not on me endure?

Not from a vain or shallow thought
His awful Jove young Phidias brought;
Never from lips of cunning fell
The thrilling Delphic oracle:
Out from the heart of nature rolled
The burdens of the Bible old;
The litanies of nations came,
Like the volcano's tongue of flame,
Up from the burning core below,--
The canticles of love and woe.
The hand that rounded Peters dome,
And groined the aisles of Christian Rome,
Wrought in a sad sincerity;
Himself from God he could not free;
He builded better than he knew;--
The conscious stone to beauty grew.

Knowest thou what wove yon woodbird's nest
Of leaves, and feathers from her breast?
Or how the fish outbuilt her shell.
Painting with morn each annual cell?
Or how the sacred pine-tree adds
To her old leaves new myriads?
Such and so grew these holy piles,
Whilst love and terror laid the tiles.
Earth proudly wears the Parthenon,
As the best gem upon her zone;
And Morning opes with haste her lids,
To gaze upon the Pyramids;
O'er England's abbeys bends the sky,
As on its friends, with kindred eye;
For, out of Thought's interior sphere,
These wonders rose to upper air;
And Nature gladly gave them place,
Adopted them into her race,
And granted them an equal date
With Andes and with Ararat.

These temples grew as grows the grass;
Art might obey, but not surpass.
The passive Master lent his hand
To the vast Soul that o'er him planned;
And the same power that reared the shrine
Bestrode the tribes that knelt within.
Ever the fiery Pentecost
Girds with one flame the countless host,
Trances the heart through chanting choirs,
And through the priest the mind inspires.
The word unto the prophet spoken
Was writ on tables yet unbroken;
The word by seers or sibyls told,
In groves of oak, or fanes of gold,
Still floats upon the morning wind,
Still whispers to the willing mind.
One accent of the Holy Ghost
The heedless world hath never lost.
I know what say the fathers wise,--
The Book itself before me lies,--
Old Chrysostom, best Augustine,
And he who blent both in his line,
The younger Golden Lips or mines,
Taylor, the Shakespeare of divines.
His words are music in my ear,
I see his cowled portrait dear;
And yet, for all his faith could see,
I would not the good bishop be.


* * * * *



"Be, rather than be called, a child of God,"
Death whispered!--with assenting nod,
Its head upon its mother's breast,
The baby bowed, without demur--
Of the kingdom of the Blest
Possessor, not inheritor.


* * * * *


"Religion relates to life, and the life of religion is to do

He left a load of anthracite
In front of a poor woman's door.
When the deep snow, frozen and white,
Wrapped street and square, mountain and moor.
That was his deed.
He did it well.
"What was his creed?"
I cannot tell.

Blessed "in his basket and his store,"
In sitting down and rising up;
When more he got, he gave the more,
Withholding not the crust and cup.
He took the lead
In each good task.
"What was his creed?"
I did not ask.

His charity was like the snow,
Soft, white, and silent in its fall;
Not like the noisy winds that blow
From shivering trees the leaves,--a pall
For flowers and weed,
Drooping below.
"What was his creed?"
The poor may know.

He had great faith in loaves of bread
For hungry people, young and old,
Hope he inspired; kind words he said
To those he sheltered from the cold.
For we should feed
As well as pray.
"What was his creed?"
I cannot say.

In words he did not put his trust;
His faith in words he never writ;
He loved to share his cup and crust
With all mankind who needed it.
In time of need
A friend was he.
"What was his creed?"
He told not me.

He put his trust in heaven, and he
Worked well with hand and head;
And what he gave in charity
Sweetened his sleep and daily bread.
Let us take heed,
For life is brief.
What was his creed--What
his belief?


* * * * *


Down deep in the hollow, so damp and so cold,
Where oaks are by ivy o'ergrown,
The gray moss and lichen creep over the mould,
Lying loose on a ponderous stone.
Now within this huge stone, like a king on his throne,
A toad has been sitting more years than is known;
And, strange as it seems, yet he constantly deems
The world standing still while he's dreaming his dreams,--
Does this wonderful toad in his cheerful abode
In the innermost heart of that flinty old stone,
By the gray-haired moss and the lichen o'ergrown.

Down deep in the hollow, from morning till night,
Dun shadows glide over the ground,
Where a watercourse once, as it sparkled with light,
Turned a ruined old mill-wheel around:
Long years have passed by since its bed became dry,
And the trees grow so close, scarce a glimpse of the sky
Is seen in the hollow, so dark and so damp,
Where the glow-worm at noonday is trimming his lamp,
And hardly a sound from the thicket around,
Where the rabbit and squirrel leap over the ground,
Is heard by the toad in his spacious abode
In the innermost heart of that ponderous stone,
By the gray-haired moss and the lichen o'ergrown.

Down deep in that hollow the bees never come,
The shade is too black for a flower;
And jewel-winged birds with their musical hum,
Never flash in the night of that bower;
But the cold-blooded snake, in the edge of the brake,
Lies amid the rank grass, half asleep, half awake;
And the ashen-white snail, with the slime in, its trail,
Moves wearily on like a life's tedious tale,
Yet disturbs not the toad in his spacious abode,
In the innermost heart of that flinty old stone,
By the gray-haired moss and the lichen o'ergrown.

Down deep in a hollow some wiseacres sit,
Like a toad in his cell in the stone;
Around them in daylight the blind owlets flit,
And their creeds are with ivy o'ergrown;--
Their stream may go dry, and the wheels cease to ply,
And their glimpses be few of the sun and the sky,
Still they hug to their breast every time-honored guest.
And slumber and doze in inglorious rest;
For no progress they find in the wide sphere of mind,
And the world's standing still with all of their kind;
Contented to dwell deep down in the well,
Or move like a snail in the crust of his shell,
Or live like the toad in his narrow abode,
With their souls closely wedged in a thick wall of stone,
By the gray weeds of prejudice rankly o'ergrown.


* * * * *


She stood before a chosen few,
With modest air and eyes of blue;
A gentle creature, in whose face
Were mingled tenderness and grace.

"You wish to join our fold," they said:
"Do you believe in all that's read
From ritual and written creed,
Essential to our human need?"

A troubled look was in her eyes;
She answered, as in vague surprise.
As though the sense to her were dim,
"I only strive to follow Him."

They knew her life; how, oft she stood,
Sweet in her guileless maidenhood,
By dying bed, in hovel lone,
Whose sorrow she had made her own.

Oft had her voice in prayer been heard,
Sweet as the voice of singing bird;
Her hand been open in distress;
Her joy to brighten and to bless.

Yet still she answered, when they sought
To know her inmost earnest thought,
With look as of the seraphim,
"I only strive to follow Him."

Creeds change as ages come and go;
We see by faith, but little know:
Perchance the sense was not so dim
To her who "strove to follow Him."


* * * * *


I hold that Christian grace abounds
Where charity is seen; that when
We climb to heaven, 't is on the rounds
Of love to men.

I hold all else, named piety,
A selfish scheme, a vain pretence;
Where centre is not--can there be

This I moreover hold, and dare
Affirm where'er my rhyme may go,--
Whatever things be sweet or fair,
Love makes them so.

Whether it be the lullabies
That charm to rest the nursling bird,
Or the sweet confidence of sighs
And blushes, made without a word.

Whether the dazzling and the flush
Of softly sumptuous garden bowers,
Or by some cabin door, a bush
Of ragged flowers.

'Tis not the wide phylactery,
Nor stubborn fast, nor stated prayers,
That make us saints: we judge the tree
By what it bears.

And when a man can live apart
From works, on theologic trust,
I know the blood about his heart
Is dry as dust.


* * * * *


With echoing steps the worshippers
Departed one by one;
The organ's pealing voice was stilled,
The vesper hymn was done;
The shadow fell from roof and arch,
Dim was the incensed air,
One lamp alone, with trembling ray,
Told of the Presence there!

In the dark church she knelt alone;
Her tears were falling fast;
"Help, Lord," she cried, "the shades of death
Upon my soul are cast!
Have I not shunned the path of sin,
And chose the better part? "--
What voice came through the sacred air?--
_"My child, give me thy heart!"_

"Have not I laid before thy shrine
My wealth, O Lord?" she cried;
"Have I kept aught of gems or gold,
To minister to pride?
Have I not bade youth's joys retire,
And vain delights depart?"--
But sad and tender was the voice,--
_"My child, give me thy heart!"_

"Have I not, Lord, gone day by day
Where thy poor children dwell;
And carried help, and gold, and food?
O Lord, thou know'st it well!
From many a house, from many a soul,
My hand bids care depart":--
More sad, more tender was the voice,--
_"My child, give me thy heart!"_

"Have I not worn my strength away
With fast and penance sore?
Have I not watched and wept?" she cried;
"Did thy dear saints do more?
Have I not gained thy grace, O Lord,
And won in heaven my part?"--
It echoed louder in her soul,--
"_My child, give me thy heart_!

"For I have loved thee with a love
No mortal heart can show;
A love so deep my saints in heaven
Its depths can never know:
When pierced and wounded on the cross,
Man's sin and doom were mine,
I loved thee with undying love,
Immortal and divine!

"I loved thee ere the skies were spread;
My soul bears all thy pains;
To gain thy love my sacred heart
In earthly shrines remains:
Vain are thy offerings, vain thy sighs,
Without one gift divine;
Give it, my child, thy heart to me,
And it shall rest in mine!"

In awe she listened, as the shade
Passed from her soul away;
In low and trembling voice she cried,--
"Lord, help me to obey!
Break thou the chains of earth, O Lord,
That bind and hold my heart;
Let it be thine and thine alone,
Let none with thee have part.

"Send down, O Lord, thy sacred fire!
Consume and cleanse the sin
That lingers still within its depths:
Let heavenly love begin.
That sacred flame thy saints have known,
Kindle, O Lord, in me,
Thou above all the rest forever,
And all the rest in thee."

The blessing fell upon her soul;
Her angel by her side
Knew that the hour of peace was come;
Her soul was purified;
The shadows fell from roof and arch,
Dim was the incensed air,--
But peace went with her as she left
The sacred Presence there!


* * * * *


O, may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence; live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
Of miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge men's minds
To vaster issues.
So to live is heaven:
To make undying music in the world,
Breathing a beauteous order that controls
With growing sway the growing life of man.
So we inherit that sweet purity
For which we struggled, failed, and agonized
With widening retrospect that bred despair.
Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,
A vicious parent shaming still its child,
Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolved;
Its discords quenched by meeting harmonies,
Die in the large and charitable air.
And all our rarer, better, truer self,
That sobbed religiously in yearning song,
That watched to ease the burden of the world,
Laboriously tracing what must be,
And what may yet be better,--saw within
A worthier image for the sanctuary,
And shaped it forth before the multitude,
Divinely human, raising worship so
To higher reverence more mixed with love,
That better self shall live till human Time
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb,
Unread forever.
This is life to come,
Which martyred men have made more glorious
For us, who strive to follow.
May I reach
That purest heaven,--be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense!
So shall I join the choir invisible,
Whose music is the gladness of the world.


* * * * *



O yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last--far off--at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.


* * * * *


What dost thou see, lone watcher on the tower.
Is the day breaking? Comes the wished-for hour?
Tell us the signs, and stretch abroad thy hand,
If the bright morning dawns upon the land.

"The stars are clear above me; scarcely one
Has dimmed its rays in reverence to the sun;
But I yet see on the horizon's verge
Some fair, faint streaks, as if the light would surge."

Look forth again, O watcher on the tower,--
The people wake and languish for the hour;
Long have they dwelt in darkness, and they pine
For the full daylight that they know must shine.

"I see not well,--the moon is cloudy still,--
There is a radiance on the distant hill;
Even as I watch the glory seems to grow;
But the stars blink, and the night breezes blow."

And is that all, O watcher on the tower?
Look forth again; it must be near the hour;
Dost thou not see the snowy mountain copes,
And the green woods beneath them on the slopes?

"A mist envelops them; I cannot trace
Their outline; but the day comes on apace:
The clouds roll up in gold and amber flakes,
And all the stars grow dim; the morning breaks."

We thank thee, lonely watcher on the tower:
But look again, and tell us, hour by hour,
All thou beholdest: many of us die
Ere the day comes; oh, give them a reply!

"I see the hill-tops now, and chanticleer
Crows his prophetic carol on mine ear;
I see the distant woods and fields of corn,
And ocean gleaming in the light of morn."

Again, again, O watcher on the tower!
We thirst for daylight, and we bide the hour,
Patient, but longing. Tell us, shall it be
A bright, calm, glorious daylight for the free?

"I hope, but cannot tell; I hear a song,
Vivid as day itself, and clear and strong,
As of a lark--young prophet of the noon--
Pouring in sunlight his seraphic tune."

What doth he say, O watcher on the tower?
Is he a prophet? does the dawning hour
Inspire his music? Is his chant sublime,
Filled with the glories of the future time?

"He prophesies,--his heart is full; his lay
Tells of the brightness of a peaceful day;
A day not cloudless, nor devoid of storm,
But sunny for the most, and clear and warm."

We thank thee, watcher on the lonely tower,
For all thou tellest. Sings he of an hour
When error shall decay, and truth grow strong,
And light shall rule supreme and conquer wrong?

"He sings of brotherhood and joy and peace,
Of days when jealousies and hate shall cease;
When war shall cease, and man's progressive mind
Soar as unfettered as its God designed."

Well done, thou watcher on the lonely tower!
Is the day breaking? Dawns the happy hour?
We pine to see it; tell us yet again
If the broad daylight breaks upon the plain?

"It breaks! it comes! the misty shadows fly:
A rosy radiance gleams upon the sky;
The mountain-tops reflect it calm and clear,
The plain is yet in shade, but day is near."


* * * * *



Lord, thou hast given me a cell
Wherein to dwell,
A little house, whose humble roof
Is weather proof;
Under the sparres of which I lie,
Both soft and drie;
Where thou, my chamber for to ward,
Hast set a guard
Of harmlesse thoughts, to watch and keep
Me while I sleep.
Low is my porch, as is my fate;
Both void of state;
And yet the threshold of my doore
Is worn by the poore,
Who hither come and freely get
Good words or meat.
Like as my parlour, so my hall
And kitchen's small;
A little butterie, and therein
A little byn,
Which keeps my little loafe of bread
Unchipt, unflead.
Some sticks of thorn or briar
Make me a fire,
Close by whose loving coals I sit,
And glow like it.
Lord, I confesse too, when I dine,
The pulse is thine,
And all those other bits that bee
There placed by thee;
The worts, the purslain, and the messe
Of water-cresse,
Which of thy kindness thou hast sent;
And my content
Makes those and my beloved beet
More sweet.
'Tis thou that crown'st my glittering hearth
With guiltlesse mirth,
And giv'st me wassaile bowles to drink,
Spiced to the brink.
Lord, 'tis thy plenty-dropping hand
That soiles my land,
And gives me for my bushel sowne,
Twice ten for one.
Thou mak'st my teeming hen to lay
Her egg each day,
Besides my healthful ewes to bear
Me twins each yeare;
The while the conduits of my kine
Run creame for wine.
All these and better thou dost send
Me to this end,
That I should render, for my part,
_A thankfulle heart,_
Which, fired with incense, I resigne
As wholly thine;
But the acceptance, that must be,
MY CHRIST, by thee.


* * * * *


Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave.
Let me once know.
I sought thee in a secret cave;
And asked if Peace were there.
A hollow wind did seem to answer, "No!
Go, seek elsewhere."

I did; and, going, did a rainbow note:
"Surely," thought I,
"This is the lace of Peace's coat.
I will search out the matter."
But, while I looked, the clouds immediately
Did break and scatter.

Then went I to a garden, and did spy
A gallant flower,--
The crown-imperial. "Sure," said I,
"Peace at the root must dwell."
But, when I digged, I saw a worm devour
What showed so well.

At length I met a reverend, good old man;
Whom when for Peace
I did demand, he thus began:
"There was a prince of old
At Salem dwelt, who lived with good increase
Of flock and fold.

"He sweetly lived; yet sweetness did not save
His life from foes.
But, after death, out of his grave
There sprang twelve stalks of wheat;
Which many wondering at, got some of those
To plant and set.

"It prospered strangely, and did soon disperse
Through all the earth.
For they that taste it do rehearse,
That virtue lies therein,--
A secret virtue, bringing peace and mirth,
By flight of sin.

"Take of this grain, which in my garden grows,
And grows for you:
Make bread of it; and that repose
And peace which everywhere
With so much earnestness you do pursue,
Is only there."


* * * * *


Is this the peace of God, this strange sweet calm?
The weary day is at its zenith still,
Yet 't is as if beside some cool, clear rill,
Through shadowy stillness rose an evening psalm.
And all the noise of life were hushed away,
And tranquil gladness reigned with gently soothing sway.

It was not so just now. I turned aside
With aching head, and heart most sorely bowed;
Around me cares and griefs in crushing crowd.
While inly rose the sense, in swelling tide,
Of weakness, insufficiency, and sin,
And fear, and gloom, and doubt in mighty flood rolled in.

That rushing flood I had no power to meet,
Nor power to flee: my present, future, past,
Myself, my sorrow, and my sin I cast
In utter helplessness at Jesu's feet:
Then bent me to the storm, if such his will.
He saw the winds and waves, and whispered.
"Peace, be still!"

And there was calm! O Saviour, I have proved
That thou to help and save art really near:
How else this quiet rest from grief and fear
And all distress? The cross is not removed,
I must go forth to bear it as before,
But, leaning on thine arm, I dread its weight no more.

Is it indeed thy peace? I have not tried
To analyze my faith, dissect my trust,
Or measure if belief be full and just,
And therefore claim thy peace. But thou hast died,
I know that this is true for me,
And, knowing it, I come, and cast my all on thee.

It is not that I feel less weak, but thou
Wilt be my strength; it is not that I see
Less sin, but more of pardoning love with thee,
And all-sufficient grace. Enough! and now
All fluttering thought is stilled, I only rest,
And feel that thou art near, and know that I am blest.


* * * * *


There are some hearts like wells, green-mossed and deep
As ever Summer saw;
And cool their water is,--yea, cool and sweet;--
But you must come to draw.
They hoard not, yet they rest in calm content,
And not unsought will give;
They can be quiet with their wealth unspent,
So self-contained they live.

And there are some like springs, that bubbling burst
To follow dusty ways,
And run with offered cup to quench his thirst
Where the tired traveller strays;
That never ask the meadows if they want
What is their joy to give;--
Unasked, their lives to other life they grant,
So self-bestowed they live!

And One is like the ocean, deep and wide,
Wherein all waters fall;
That girdles the broad earth, and draws the tide,
Feeding and bearing all;
That broods the mists, that sends the clouds abroad,
That takes, again to give;--
Even the great and loving heart of God.
Whereby all love doth live.


* * * * *


The immortal gods
Accept the meanest altars, that are raised
By pure devotion; and sometimes prefer
An ounce of frankincense, honey, or milk,
Before whole hecatombs, or Sabaean gems,
Offered in ostentation.


* * * * *


"Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut
off."--LAMENTATIONS iii. 54.

One day I wandered where the salt sea-tide
Backward had drawn its wave,
And found a spring as sweet as e'er hillside
To wild-flowers gave.
Freshly it sparkled in the sun's bright look,
And mid its pebbles strayed,
As if it thought to join a happy brook
In some green glade.

But soon the heavy sea's resistless swell
Came rolling in once more,
Spreading its bitter o'er the clear sweet well
And pebbled shore.
Like a fair star thick buried in a cloud,
Or life in the grave's gloom,
The well, enwrapped in a deep watery shroud,
Sunk to its tomb.

As one who by the beach roams far and wide,
Remnant of wreck to save,
Again I wandered when the salt sea-tide
Withdrew its wave;
And there, unchanged, no taint in all its sweet,
No anger in its tone,
Still as it thought some happy brook to meet,
The spring flowed on.

While waves of bitterness rolled o'er its head,
Its heart had folded deep
Within itself, and quiet fancies led,
As in a sleep;
Till, when the ocean loosed his heavy chain,
And gave it back to day,
Calmly it turned to its own life again
And gentle way.

Happy, I thought, that which can draw its life
Deep from the nether springs,
Safe 'neath the pressure, tranquil mid the strife,
Of surface things.
Safe--for the sources of the nether springs
Up in the far hills lie;
Calm--for the life its power and freshness brings
Down from the sky.

So, should temptations threaten, and should sin
Roll in its whelming flood,
Make strong the fountain of thy grace within
My soul, O God!
If bitter scorn, and looks, once kind, grown strange,
With crushing chillness fall,
From secret wells let sweetness rise, nor change
My heart to gall!

When sore thy hand doth press, and waves of thine
Afflict me like a sea,--
Deep calling deep,--infuse from source divine
Thy peace in me!
And when death's tide, as with a brimful cup,
Over my soul doth pour,
Let hope survive,--a well that springeth up

Above my head the waves may come and go,
Long brood the deluge dire,
But life lies hidden in the depths below
Till waves retire,--
Till death, that reigns with overflowing flood,
At length withdraw its sway,
And life rise sparkling in the sight of God
An endless day.


* * * * *


In the bitter waves of woe,
Beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow
From the desolate shores of doubt,--

When the anchors that faith had cast
Are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast
To the things that cannot fail:

I know that right is right;
That it is not good to lie;
That love is better than spite,
And a neighbor than a spy;

I know that passion needs
The leash of a sober mind;
I know that generous deeds
Some sure reward will find;

That the rulers must obey;
That the givers shall increase;
That Duty lights the way
For the beautiful feet of Peace;--

In the darkest night of the year,
When the stars have all gone out,
That courage is better than fear,
That faith is truer than doubt;

And fierce though the fiends may fight,
And long though the angels hide,
I know that Truth and Eight
Have the universe on their side;

And that somewhere, beyond the stars,
Is a Love that is better than fate;
When the night unlocks her bars
I shall see Him, and I will wait.


* * * * *


The play is done,--the curtain drops,
Slow falling to the prompter's bell;
A moment yet the actor stops,
And looks around, to say farewell.
It is an irksome word and task;
And, when he's laughed and said his say,
He shows, as he removes the mask,
A face that's anything but gay.

One word, ere yet the evening ends,--
Let's close it with a parting rhyme;
And pledge a hand to all young friends,
As flits the merry Christmas time;
On life's wide scene you, too, have parts
That fate erelong shall bid you play;
Good night!--with honest, gentle hearts
A kindly greeting go alway!

Good night!--I'd say the griefs, the joys,
Just hinted in this mimic page,
The triumphs and defeats of boys,
Are but repeated in our age;
I'd say your woes were not less-keen,
Your hopes more vain, than those of men,--
Your pangs or pleasures of fifteen
At forty-five played o'er again.

I'd say we suffer and we strive
Not less nor more as men than boys,--
With grizzled beards at forty-five,
As erst at twelve in corduroys;
And if, in time of sacred youth,
We learned at home to love and pray,
Pray Heaven that early love and truth
May never wholly pass away.

And in the world, as in the school,
I'd say how fate may change and shift,--
The prize be sometimes with the fool,
The race not always to the swift:
The strong may yield, the good may fall,
The great man be a vulgar clown,
The knave be lifted over all,
The kind cast pitilessly down.

Who knows the inscrutable design?
Blessed be Be who took and gave!
Why should your mother, Charles, not mine,
Be weeping at her darling's grave?
We bow to Heaven that willed it so,
That darkly rules the fate of all,
That sends the respite or the blow,
That's free to give or to recall.

This crowns his feast with wine and wit,--
Who brought him to that mirth and state?
His betters, see, below him sit,
Or hunger hopeless at the gate.
Who bade the mud from Dives' wheel
To spurn the rags of Lazarus?
Come, brother, in that dust we'll kneel,
Confessing Heaven that ruled it thus.

So each shall mourn, in life's advance,
Dear hopes, dear friends, untimely killed;
Shall grieve for many a forfeit chance
And longing passion unfulfilled.
Amen!--whatever fate be sent,
Pray God the heart may kindly glow,
Although the head with cares be bent,
And whitened with the winter snow.

Come wealth or want, come good or ill,
Let young and old accept their part,
And bow before the awful will,
And bear it with an honest heart.
Who misses, or who wins the prize,--
Go, lose or conquer as you can;
But if you fail, or if you rise,
Be each, pray God, a gentleman.

A gentleman, or old or young!
(Bear kindly with my humble lays;)
The sacred chorus first was sung
Upon the first of Christmas days;
The shepherds heard it overhead,--
The joyful angels raised it then:
Glory to Heaven on high, it said,
And peace on earth to gentle men!

My song, save this, is little worth;
I lay the weary pen aside,
And wish you health and love and mirth,
As fits the solemn Christmas-tide.
As fits the holy Christmas birth,
Be this, good friends, our carol still,--
Be peace on earth, be peace on earth,
To men of gentle will.


* * * * *



Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night--
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new--,
Ring happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land--
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


* * * * *


It is not life upon thy gifts to live,
But to grow fixed with deeper roots in Thee;
And when the sun and showers their bounties give,
To send out thick-leaved limbs; a fruitful tree
Whose green head meets the eye for many a mile,
Whose spreading boughs a friendly shelter rear,
And full-faced fruits their blushing welcome smile
As to its goodly shade our feet draw near.
Who tastes its gifts shall never hunger more,
For 't is the Father spreads the pure repast,
Who, while we eat, renews the ready store,
Which at his bounteous board must ever last;
And, as the more we to his children lend,
The more to us doth of his bounty send.


* * * * *




Of man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos; or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song.
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.



The Sun was sunk, and after him the star
Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring
Twilight upon the Earth, short arbiter
'Twixt day and night, and now from end to end
Night's hemisphere had veiled the horizon round:
When Satan, who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improved
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On Man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless returned.
By night he fled, and at midnight returned
From compassing the Earth;

* * * * *

The orb he roamed
With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Considered every creature, which of all
Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found
The serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
Him, after long debate, irresolute
Of thoughts revolved, his final sentence chose
Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom
To enter, and his dark suggestions hide
From sharpest sight: for, in the wily snake
Whatever sleights, none would suspicious mark,
As from his wit and native subtlety
Proceeding; which, in other beasts observed.
Doubt might beget of diabolic power
Active within, beyond the sense of brute.

* * * * *

For now, and since first break of dawn, the fiend.
Mere serpent in appearance, forth was come;
And on his quest, where likeliest he might find
The only two of mankind, but in them
The whole included race, his purposed prey.
In bower and field he sought where any tuft
Of grove or garden-plot more pleasant lay,
Their tendance, or plantation for delight;
By fountain or by shady rivulet
He sought them both, but wished his hap might find
Eve separate; he wished, but not with hope
Of what so seldom chanced; when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,
Veiled in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood,
Half spied, so thick the roses blushing round
About her glowed.

* * * * *

"She fair, divinely fair, fit love for gods.
Not terrible, though terror be in love
And beauty, not approached by stronger hate.
Hate stronger, under show of love well feigned;
The way which to her ruin now I tend."
So spake the enemy of mankind, inclosed
In serpent, inmate bad! and toward Eve
Addressed his way: not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since; but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that towered
Fold above fold, a surging maze! his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect.
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape
And lovely; never since of serpent-kind

* * * * *

So varied he, and of his tortuous train
Curled many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her eye; she, busied, heard the sound
Of rustling leaves, but minded not, as used
To such disport before her through the field,
From every beast; more duteous at her call,
Than at Circean call the herd disguised.
He, bolder now, uncalled before her stood,
But as in gaze admiring: oft he bowed
His turret crest, and sleek enamelled neck,
Fawning; and licked the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turned at length
The eye of Eve, to mark his play; he, glad
Of her attention gained, with serpent-tongue
Organic, or impulse of vocal air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began.
"Wonder not, sovran mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst who art sole wonder! much less arm
Thy looks, the Heaven of mildness, with disdain,
Displeased that I approach thee thus, and gaze
Insatiate; I thus single; nor have feared
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retired.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair,
Thee all things living gaze on all things thine
By gift, and thy celestial beauty adore
With ravishment beheld! there beat beheld,
Where universally admired; but here
In this inclosure wild, these beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discern
Half what in thee is fair, one man except,
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who should be seen
A goddess among gods, adored and served
By angels numberless, thy daily train."
So glozed the tempter, and his proem tuned:
Into the heart of Eve his words made way.

* * * * *

[_After some discourse, the Tempter praises the Tree of Knowledge._]

So standing, moving, or to height up grown,
The tempter, all impassioned, thus began.
"O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving plant,
Mother of science! now I feel thy power
Within me clear; not only to discern
Things in their causes, but to trace the ways
Of highest agents, deemed however wise.
Queen of this universe! do not believe
Those rigid threats of death: ye shall not die:
How should you? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge; by the threatener? look on me.
Me, who have touched and tasted; yet both live,
And life more perfect have attained than Fate
Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.
Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass? and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing death be,
Deterred not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;
Of good, how just? of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God: not feared then, nor obeyed:
Your fear itself of death removes the fear.
Why then was this forbid? Why, but to awe;
Why, but to keep ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers? He knows that in the day
Ye eat thereof, your eyes, that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Opened and cleared, and ye shall be as gods,
Knowing both good and evil, as they know.
That ye shall be as gods, since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet;
I, of brute, human; ye, of human, gods.
So ye shall die, perhaps, by putting off
Human, to put on gods; death to be wished,
Though threatened, which no worse than this can bring.
And what are gods, that man may not become
As they, participating godlike food?
The gods are first, and that advantage use
On our belief, that all from them proceeds:
I question it; for this fair Earth I see,
Warmed by the Sun, producing every kind;
Them, nothing: if they all things, who inclosed
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whoso eats thereof forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies
The offence, that man should thus attain to know?
What can your knowledge hurt him, or this tree
Impart against his will, if all be his?
Or is it envy? and can envy dwell
In heavenly breasts?--These, these, and many more
Causes import your need of this fair fruit.
Goddess humane, reach then, and freely taste."


He ended, and his words replete with guile
Into her heart too easy entrance won:
Fixed on the fruit she gazed, which to behold
Might tempt alone, and in her ears the sound
Yet rung of persuasive words, impregned
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth:
Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on, and waked
An eager appetite, raised by the smell
So savory of that fruit, which with desire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Solicited her longing eye; yet first
Pausing awhile, thus to herself she mused.
"Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits,
Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired,
Whose taste, too long forborne, at first assay
Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise:
Thy praise he also who forbids thy use
Conceals not from us, naming thee the Tree
Of Knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil;
Forbids us then to taste! but his forbidding
Commends thee more, while it infers the good
By thee communicated, and our want:
For good unknown sure is not had, or had
And yet unknown is as not had at all.
In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise?
Such prohibitions bind not. But if death
Bind us with after-bands, what profits then
Our inward freedom? In the day we eat
Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die.
How dies the serpent? he hath eaten and lives,
And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,
Irrational till then. For us alone
Was death invented? or to us denied
This intellectual food, for beasts reserved?
For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy
The good befallen him, author unsuspect,
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? rather what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: what hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?"
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty serpent, and well might, for Eve
Intent now wholly on her taste nought else
Regarded, such delight till then, as seemed,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge: nor was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death.



Thus they, in lowliest plight, repentant stood
Praying; for from the mercy-seat above
Prevenient grace descending had removed
The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh
Regenerate grow instead; that sighs now breathed
Unutterable; which the spirit of prayer
Inspired, and winged for Heaven with speedier flight
Than loudest oratory: yet their port
Not of mean suitors; nor important less
Seemed their petition, than when the ancient pair
In fables old, less ancient yet than these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, to restore
The race of mankind drowned, before the shrine
Of Themis stood devout. To Heaven their prayers
Flew up, nor missed the way, by envious winds
Blown vagabond or frustrate: in they passed
Dimensionless through heavenly doors; then clad
With incense, where the golden altar fumed,
By their great Intercessor, came in sight
Before the Father's throne: them the glad Son
Presenting, thus to intercede began.

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