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Toward the Gulf by Edgar Lee Masters

Part 4 out of 5

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Depends upon the seed and on the soil.
What Mendel found in raising peas may lead
To perfect knowledge of the human mind.
There is one law for men and peas, the law
Makes peas of certain matter, and makes men
And mind of certain matter, all depends
Not on a varying law, but on a law
Varied in its course by matter, as
The arm, which is a lever and which works
By lever principle cannot make use
And form cement with trowel to the forms
It makes of paint or marble.

To resume:
A child may take the qualities of one parent
In some respects, and of the other parent
In some respects. A child may have the traits
Of father at one period of his life,
The mother at one period of his life.
And if the parents' traits are similar
Their traits may be prepotent in a child,
Thus giving rise to qualities convergent.
So if you take a circle and draw off
A line which would become another circle
If drawn enough, completed, but is left
Half drawn or less, that illustrates a mind
Of cumulative heredity. Take John,
My gardener, John, within his sphere is perfect,
John has a mind which is a perfect circle.
A perfect circle can be small, you know.
And so John has good sense within his sphere.
But if some force began to work like yeast
In brain cells, and his mind shot forth a line
To make a larger thinking circle, say
About a great invention, heaven or God,
Then John would be abnormal, till this line
Shot round and joined, became a larger circle.
This is the secret of eccentric genius,
The man is half a sphere, sticks out in space
Does not enclose co-ordinated thought.
He's like a plant mutating, half himself
Half something new and greater. If we looked
To John's heredity we'd find this change
Was manifest in mother or in father
About the self-same period of life,
Most likely in his father. Attributes
Of fathers are inherited by sons,
Of mothers by the daughters.

Now this morning
I take up paranoia. Paranoics
Are often noted for great gifts of mind.
Mahomet, Swedenborg were paranoics,
Joan of Arc, and Ossawatomie Brown,
Cellini, many others. All who think
Themselves inspired of God, and all who see
Themselves appointed to a work, the subjects
Of prophecies are paranoics. All
Who visions have of God or archangels,
Hear voices or celestial music, these
Are paranoics. And whether it be they rise
Enough above the earth to look along
A longer arc and see realities,
Or see strange things through atmospheric strata
Which build up or distort the things they see
Remains the question. Let us wait the proof.

Last week I told you I would have to-day
The skull and brain of Jacob Groesbell here,
And lecture on his case. Here is the brain:
Weight sixteen hundred grammes. Students may look
After the lecture at the brain and skull.
There's nothing anatomical at fault
With this fine brain, so far as I can find.
You'll note how deep the convolutions are,
Arrangement quite symmetrical. The skull
Is well formed too. The jaws are long you'll note,
The palate roof somewhat asymmetrical.
But this is scarce significant. Let me tell
How Jacob Groesbell looked:

The man was tall,
Had shapely hands and feet, but awkward limbs.
His hair was brown and fine, his forehead high,
And ran back at an angle, temples full.
His nose was long and fleshy at the point,
Was tilted to one side. His eyes were gray,
The iris flecked. They looked as if a light
As of a sun-set shone behind them. Ears
Were very large, projected at right angles.
His neck was slender, womanish. His skin
Of finest texture, white and very smooth.
His voice was quiet, musical. His manner
Patient and gentle, modest, reasonable.
His parents, as I learned through inquiry,
Were Methodists, devout and greatly loved.
The mother healthy both in mind and body.
The father was eccentric, perhaps insane.
They were first cousins.

I knew Jacob Groesbell
Ten years before he died. I knew him first
When he was sent to mend my porch. A workman
With saw and hammer never excelled him. Then
As time went on I saw him when he came
At my request to do my carpentry.
I grew to know him, and by slow degrees
He told me of his readings in the Bible,
And gave me his interpretations. At last
Aged forty-six, had ulcers of the stomach,
Which took him off. He sent for me, and said
He wished me to attend him, which I did.
He told me I could have his body and brain
To lecture on, dissect, since some had said
He was insane, he told me, and if so
I should find something wrong with brain or body.
And if I found a wrong then all his visions
Of God and archangels were just the fancies
That come to madmen. So he made provision
To give his brain and body for this cause,
And here's his brain and skull, and I am lecturing
On Jacob Groesbell as a paranoic.

As I have said before, in making tests
And observations of the patient, have
His conversation taken stenographically,
In order to preserve his speech exactly,
And catch the flow if he becomes excited.
So we determine if he makes new words,
If he be incoherent, or repeats.
I took my secretary once to make
A stenographic record. Strange enough
He would not talk while she was writing down.
And when I asked him why, he would not tell.
So I devised a scheme: I took a satchel,
And put in it a dictaphone, and when
A cylinder was full I'd stoop and put
My hand among my bottles in the satchel,
As if I was compounding medicine,
Instead I'd put another cylinder on.
And thus I got his story in his voice,
Just as he talked, with nothing lost at all,
Which you shall hear. For with this megaphone
The students in the farthest gallery
Can hear what Jacob Groesbell said to me,
And weigh the thought that stirred within the brain
Here in this jar beside me. Listen now
To Jacob Groesbell's voice:

"Will you repeat
From the beginning connectedly the story
Of your religious life, illumination,
Vhat you have called your soul's escape?"

"I will,
Since I shall never tell it again."

"I grew up
Timid and sensitive, not very strong,
Not understood of father or of mother.
They did not love me, and I never felt
A tenderness for them. I used to quote:
'Who is my mother and who are my brothers?'
At school I was not liked. I had a chum
From time to time, that's all. And I remember
My mother on a day put with my luncheon
A bottle of milk, and when the noon hour came
I missed it, found some boys had taken it,
And when I asked for it, they made the cry:
'Bottle of milk, bottle of milk/ and I
Flushed through with shame, and cried, and to this hour
It hurts me to remember it. Such days,
All misery! For all my clothes were patched.
They hooted at me. So I lived alone.
At twelve years old I had great fears of death,
And hell, heard devils in my room. One night
During a thunderstorm heard clanking chains,
And hid beneath the pillows. One spring day
As I was walking on the village street
Close to the church I heard a voice which said
'Behold, my son'--and falling on my knees
I prayed in ecstacy--but as I prayed
Some passing school boys laughed, threw stones at me.
A heat ran through me, I arose and fled.
Well, then I joined the church and was baptized.
But something left me in the ceremony,
I lost my ecstacy, seemed slipping back
Into the trap. I took to wandering
In solitary places, could not bear
To see a human face. I slept for nights
In still ravines, or meadows. But one time
Returning to my home, I found the room
Filled up with visitors--my heart stopped short,
And glancing at the faces of my parents
I hurried, bolted through, and did not speak,
Entered a bed-room door and closed it. So
I tell this just to illustrate my shyness,
Which cursed my youth and made me miserable,
Something I fought but could not overcome.
And pondering on the Scriptures I could see
How I resembled the saints, our Saviour even,
How even as my brothers called me mad
They called our Saviour so.

"At fourteen years
My father taught me carpentry, his trade,
And made me work with him. I seemed to be
The butt for jokes and laughter with the men--
I know not why. For now and then they'd drop
A word that showed they knew my secrets, knew
I had heard voices, knew I loathed the lusts
Of women, drink. Oh these were sorry years,
God was not with me though I sought Him ever
And I was persecuted for His sake. My brain
Seemed like to burst at times, saw sparkling lights,
Heard music, voices, made strange shapes of leaves,
Clouds, trunks of trees,--illusions of the devil.
I was turned twenty years when on an evening
Calm, beautiful in June, after a day
Of healthful toil, while sitting on the porch,
The sun just sinking, at my left I heard
A voice of hollow clearness: "You are Christ."
My eyes grew blind with tears for the evil
Of such a thought, soul stained with such a thought,
So devil stained, soul damned with blasphemy.
I ran into my room and seized a pistol
To end my life. God willed it otherwise.
I fainted and awoke upon the floor
After some hours. To heap my suffering full
A few days after this while in the village
I went into a store. The friendly clerk--
I knew him always--said 'What will you have?
I wait first always on the little boys.'
I laughed and went my way. But in an hour
His saying rankled, I began to brood
On ways of vengeance, till it seemed at last
His life must pay. O, soul so full of sin,
So devil tangled, tortured--which not prayer
Nor watching could deliver. So I thought
To save my soul from murder I must fly--
I felt an urging as one does in sleep
Pursued by giant things to fly, to fly
From terror, death, from blankness on the scene,
From emptiness, from beauty gone. The world
Seemed something seen in fever, where the steps
Of men are muffled, and a futile scheme
Impels all steps. So packing up my kit,
My Bible in my pocket, secretly
I disappeared. Next day took up my life
In Barrington, a village thirty miles
From all I knew, besides a lovely lake,
Reached by a road that crossed a bridge
Over a little bay, the bridge's ends
Clustered with boats for fishermen. And here
Night after night I fished, or stood and watched
The star-light on the water.

I grew calmer
Almost found peace, got work to do, and lived
Under a widow's roof, who was devout
And knew my love for God. Now listen, doctor,
To every word: I was now twenty-five,
In perfect health, no longer persecuted,
At peace with all the world, if not my soul
Had wholly found its peace, for truth to tell
It had an ache which sometimes I could feel,
And yet I had this soul awakening.
I know I have been counted mad, so watch
Each detail here and judge.

At four o'clock
The thirtieth day of June, my work being done,
My kit upon my back I walked this road
Toward the village. 'Twas an afternoon
Of clouds, no rain, a little breeze, the tinkle
Of cow bells in the air, a heavenly silence
Pervading nature. Reaching the hill's foot
I sat down by a tree to rest, enjoy
The greenness of the forests, meadows, flats
Along the bay, the blueness of the lake,
The ripple of the water at my feet,
The rythmic babble of the little boats
Tied to the bridge. And as I sat there musing,
Myself lost in the self, in time the clouds
Lifted, blew off, to let the sun go down
Over the waters gloriously to rest.
So as I stared upon the sun on the water,
Some minutes, though I know not for how long,
Out of the splendor of the shining sun
Upon the water, Jesus of Nazareth
Clothed all in white, the nimbus round his brow,
His face all wisdom, love, rose to my view,
And then he spake: 'Jacob, my son, arise
And come with me.'

"And in an instant there
Something fell from me, I became a cloud,
A soul with wings. A glory burned about me.
And in that glory I perceived all things:
I saw the eternal wheels, the deepest secrets
Of creatures, herbs and grass, and stars and suns
And I knew God, and knew all things as God:
The All loving, the Perfect One, the Perfect Wisdom,
Truth, love and purity. And in that instant
Atoms and molecules I saw, and faces,
And how they are arranged order to order,
With no break in the order, one harmonious
Whole of universal life all blended
And interfused with universal love.
And as it was with Shelley so I cried,
And clasped my hands in ecstacy and rose
And started back to climb the hill again,
Scarce knowing, neither caring what I did,
Nor where I went, and thinking if this be
A fancy only of the Saviour then
He will not follow me, and if it be
Himself, indeed, he will not let me fall
After the revelation. As I reached
The brow of the hill, I felt his presence with me
And turned, and saw Him. 'Thou hast faith, my son,
Who knowest me, when they who walked with me
Toward Emmaus knew me not, to whom I told
All secrets of the scriptures beginning at Moses,
Who knew me not till I brake bread and then,
As after thought could say, Did not our heart
Within us burn while he talked. O, Jacob Groesbell,
Thou carpenter, as I was, greatly blessed
With visions and my Father's love, this walk
Is your walk toward Emmaus.' So he talked,
Expounding all the scriptures, telling me
About the race of men who live and move
Along a life of meat and drink and sleep
And comforts of the flesh, while here and there
A hungering soul is chosen to lift up
And re-create the race. 'The prophet, poet
Must seek and must find God to keep the race
Awake to the divine and to the orders
Of universal and harmonious life,
All interfused with Universal love,
Which love is God, lest blindness, atheism,
Which sees no order, reason, no intent
Beat down the race to welter in the mire
When storms, and floods come. And the sons of God,
The leaders of the race from age to age
Are chosen for their separate work, each work
Fits in the given order. All who suffer
The martyrdom of thought, whether they think
Themselves as servants of my Father, or even
Mock at the images and rituals
Which prophets of dead creeds did symbolize
The mystery they sensed, or whether they be
Spirits of laughter, logic, divination
Of human life, the human soul, all men
Who give their essence, blindly or in vision
In faith that life is worth their utmost love,
They are my brothers and my Father's sons.'
So Jesus told me as we took my walk
Toward my Emmaus. After a time we turned
And walked through heading rye and purple vetch
Into an orchard where great rows of pears
Sloped up a hill. It was now evening:
Stretches of scarlet clouds were in the west,
And a half moon was hanging just above
The pears' white blossoms. O, that evening!
We came back to the boats at last and loosed
One of them and rowed out into the bay,
And fished, while the stars appeared. He only said
'Whatever they did with me you too shall do.'
A haziness came on me now. I seem
To find myself alone there in that boat.
At mid-night I awoke, the moon was sunk,
The whippoorwills were singing. I walked home
Back to the village in a silence, peace,
A happiness profound.

"And the next morning
I awoke with aching head, spent body, yet
With spiritual vision so intense I looked
Through things material as if they were
But shadows--old things passed away or grew
A lovelier order. And my heart was full.
Infinitely I loved, and infinitely was loved.
My landlady looked at me sharply, asked
What hour I entered, where I was so late.
I only answered fishing. For I told
No person of my vision, went my way
At carpentry in silence, in great joy.
For archangels and powers were at my side,
They led me, bore me up, instructed me
In mysteries, and voices said to me
'Write' as the voice in Patmos said to John.
I wrote and printed and the village read,
And called me mad. And so I grew to see
The deepest truths of God, and God Himself,
The geniture of all things, of the Word
Becoming flesh in Christ. I knew all ages,
Times, empires, races, creeds, the human weakness
Which makes life wearisome, confused and pained,
And how the search for something (it is God)
Makes divers worships, fire, the sun, and beasts
Takes form in Eleusinian mysteries
Or festivals where sex, the vine, the Earth
At harvest time have praise or reverence.
I knew God, talked with God, and knew that God
Is more than Thought or Love. Our twisted brains
Are but the wires in the bulb which stays,
Resists the current and makes human thought.
As the electric current is not light
But heat and power as well. Our little brains
Resist God and make thought and love as well.
But God is more than these. Oh I heard much
Of music, heard the whirring as of wheels,
Or buzzing as of ears when a room is still.
That is the axis of profoundest life
Which turns and rests not. And I heard the cry
And hearing wept, of man's soul, heard the ages,
The epochs of this earth as it were the feet
Of multitudes in corridors. And I knew
The agony of genius and the woe
Of prophets and the great.

"From that next morning
I searched the scriptures with more fervid zeal
Than I had ever done. I could not open
Its pages anywhere but I could find
Myself set forth or mirrored, pointed to.
I could not doubt my destiny was bound
With man's salvation. Jeremiah said
'Take forth the precious from the vile.' Those words
To me were spoken, and to no one else.
And so I searched the scriptures. And I found
I never had a thought, experience, pang,
A state in human life our Saviour had not.
He was a carpenter, and so was I.
He had his soul's illumination, so had I.
His brethren called him mad, they called me mad.
He triumphed over death, so shall I triumph.
For I could, I can feel my way along
Death's stages as a man can reach and feel
Ahead of him along a wall. I know
This body is a shell, a butterfly's
Excreta pushed away with rising wings.

"I searched the scriptures. How should I believe
Paul's story, not my own? Did he not see
At mid-day in the way a light from heaven
Above the brightness of the sun and hear
The voice of Jesus saying to him 'Saul,'
Why persecutest thou me?' And did not Festus,
Before whom Paul stood speaking for himself,
Call Paul a mad man? Even while he spake
Such words as none but men inspired can speak,
As well as words of truth and soberness,
Such as myself speak now.

"And from the scriptures
I passed to studies of the men who came
To great illuminations. You will see
There are two kinds: One's of the intellect,
The understanding, one is of the soul.
The x-ray lets the eye behind the flesh
To see the ribs, or heart beat, choose! So men
In their illumination see the frame-work
Of life or see its spirit, so align
Themselves with Science, Satire, or align
Themselves with Poetry or Prophecy.
So being Aristotle, Rabelais,
Paul, Swedenborg.

"And as the years
Went on, as I had time, was fortunate
In finding books I read of many men
Who had illumination, as I had it. Read
Of Dante's vision, how he found himself
Saw immortality, lost fear of death.
Read Swedenborg, who left the intellect
At fifty-four for God, and entered heaven
Before he quitted life and saw behind
The sun of fire, a sun of love and truth.
Read Whitman who exclaimed to God: 'Thou knowest
My manhood's visionary meditations
Which come from Thee, the ardor and the urge.
Thou lightest my life with rays ineffable
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages.'
Read Blake, Spinoza, Emerson, read Wordsworth
Who wrote of something 'deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue skies, and in the mind of man--
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought
And rolls through all things.'

"And at last they called me
The mad, and learned carpenter. And then--
I'm growing faint. Your hand, hold ..."

At this point
He fainted, sank into a stupor. There
I watched him, to discover if 'twas death.
But soon I saw him rally, then he spoke.
There was some other talk, but not of moment.
I had to change the cylinder--the talk
Was broken, rambling, and of trifling things,
Throws no light on the case, being sane enough.
He died next morning.

Students who desire
To examine the skull and brain may do so now
At their convenience in the laboratory.


Said Friar Yves: "God will bless
Saint Louis' other-worldliness.
Whatever the fate be, still I fare
To fight for the Holy Sepulcher.
If I survive, I shall return
With precious things from Palestine--
Gold for my purse, spices and wine,
Glory to wear among my kin.
Fame as a warrior I shall win.
But, otherwise, if I am slain
In Jesus' cause, my soul shall earn
Immortal life washed white from sin."

Said Friar Yves: "Come what will--
Riches and glory, death and woe--
At dawn to Palestine I go.
Whether I live or die, I gain
To fly the tepid good and ill
Of daily living in Champagne,
Where those who reach salvation lose
The treasures, raptures of the earth,
Captured, possessed, and made to serve
The gospel love of Jesus' birth,
Sacrifice, death; where even those
Passing from pious works and prayer
To paradise are not received
As those who battled, strove, and lived,
And periled bodies, as I choose
To peril mine, and thus to use
Body and soul to build the throne
Of Louis the Saint, where Joseph's care
Lay Jesus under a granite stone."

Then Friar Yves buckled on
His breastplate, and, at break of dawn,
With crossboy, halberd took his way,
Walked without resting, without pause,
Till the sun hovered at midday
Over a tree of glistening leaves,
Where a spring gurgled. "Hunger gnaws
My stomach," whispered Friar Yves.
"If I," he sighed, "could only gain,
Like yonder spring, an inner source
Of life, and need not dew or rain
Of human love, or human friends,
And thus accomplish my soul's ends
Within myself! No," said the friar;
"There is one water and one fire;
There is one Spirit, which is God.
And what are we but streams and springs
Through which He takes His wanderings?
Lord, I am weak, I am afraid;
Show me the way!" the friar prayed.
"Where do I flow and to what end?
Am I of Thee, or do I blend
Hereafter with Thee?"

Yves heard,
While praying, sounds as when the sod
Teems with a swarm of insect things.
He dropped his halberd to look down,
And then his waking vision blurred,
As one before a light will frown.
His inner ear was caught and stirred
By voices; then the chestnut tree
Became a step beside a throne.
Breathless he lay and fearfully,
While on his brain a vision shone.
Said a Great Voice of sweetest tone:
"The time has come when I must take
The form of man for mankind's sake.
This drama is played long enough
By creatures who have naught of me,
Save what comes up from foam of the sea
To crawling moss or swimming weeds,
At last to man. From heaven in flame,
Pure, whole, and vital, down I fly,
And take a mortal's form and name,
And labor for the race's needs."
Then Friar Yves dreamed the sky
Flushed like a bride's face rosily,
And shot to lightning from its bloom.
The world leaped like a babe in the womb,
And choral voices from heaven's cope
Circled the earth like singing stars:
"O wondrous hope, O sweetest hope,
O passion realized at last;
O end of hunger, fear, and wars,
O victory over the bottomless, vast
Valley of Death!"

A silence fell,
Broke by the voice of Gabriel:
"Music may follow this, O Lord!
Music I hear; I hear discord
Through ages yet to be, as well.
There will be wars because of this,
And wars will come in its despite.
It's noon on the world now; blackest night
Will follow soon. And men will miss
The meaning, Lord! There will be strife
'Twixt Montanist and Ebionite,
Gnostic, Mithraist, Manichean,
'Twixt Christian and the Saracen.
There will be war to win the place
Where you bend death to sovereign life.
Armed kings will battle for the grace
Of rulership, for power and gold
In the name of Jesus. Men will hold
Conclaves of swords to win surcease
Of doctrines of the Prince of Peace.
The seed is good, Lord, make the ground
Good for the seed you scatter round!"

Said the Great Voice of sweetest tone:
"The gardener sprays his plants and trees
To drive out lice and stop disease.
After the spraying, fruit is grown
Ruddy and plump. The shortened eyes
Of men can see this end, although
Leaves wither or a whole tree dies
From what the gardener does to grow
Apples and plums of sweeter flesh.
The gardener lives outside the tree;
The gardener knows the tree can see
What cure is needed, plans afresh
An end foreseen, and there's the will
Wherewith the gardener may fulfil
The orchard's destiny."

So He spake.
And Friar Yves seemed to wake,
But did not wake, and only sunk
Into another dreaming state,
Wherein he saw a woman's form
Leaning against the chestnut's trunk.
Her body was virginal, white, and straight,
And glowed like a dawning, golden, warm,
Behind a robe of writhing green:
As when a rock's wall makes a screen
Whereon the crisscross reflect moves
Of circling water under the rays
Of April sunlight through the sprays
Of budding branches in willow groves--
A liquid mosaic of green and gold--
Thus was her robe.

But to behold
Her face was to forget the youth
Of her white bosom. All her hair
Was tangled serpents; she did wear
A single eye in the middle brow.
Her cheeks were shriveled, and one tooth
Stuck from shrunken gums. A bough
O'ershadowed her the while she gripped
A pail in either hand. One dripped
Clear water; one, ethereal fire.
Then to the Graia spoke the friar:
"Have mercy! Tell me your desire
And what you are?"

Then the Graia said:
"My body is Nature and my head
Is Man, and God has given me
A seeing spirit, strong and free,
Though by a single eye, as even
Man has one vision at a time.
I lift my pails up; mark them well.
With this fire I will burn up heaven,
And with this water I will quench
The flames of hell's remotest trench,
That men may work in righteousness.
Not for the fears of an after hell,
Nor for the rewards which heaven will bless
The soul with when the mountains nod
And the sun darkens, but for love
Of Man and Life, and love of God.
Now look!"

She dashed the pail of fire
Against the vault of heaven. It fell
As would a canopy of blue
Burned by a soldier's careless torch.
She dashed the water into hell,
And a great steam rose up with the smell
Of gaseous coals, which seemed to scorch
All things which on the good earth grew.
"Now," said the Graia, "loiterer,
Awake from slumber, rise and speed
To fight for the Holy Sepulcher--
Nothing is left but Life, indeed--
I have burned heaven! I have quenched hell."

Friar Yves no longer slept;
Friar Yves awoke and wept.


June, but we kept the fire place piled with logs,
And every day it rained. And every morning
I heard the wind and rain among the leaves.
Try as I would my spirits grew no better.
What was it? Was I ill or sick in mind?
I spent the whole day working with my hands,
For there was brush to clear and corn to plant
Between the gusts of rain; and there at night
I sat about the room and hugged the fire.
And the rain dripped and the wind blew, we shivered
For cold and it was June. I ached all through
For my hard labor, why did muscles grow not
To hardness and cure body, if 'twere body,
Or soul if it were soul?

But there at night
As I sat aching, worn, before the hour
Of sleep, and restless in this interval
Of nothingness, the silence out-of-doors,
Timed by the dripping rain, and by the slap
Of cards upon a table by a boarder
Who passed the time in playing solitaire,
Sometimes my ancient host would fill his pipe,
And scrape away the dust of long past years
To show me what had happened in his life.
And as he smoked and talked his aged wife
Would parallel his theme, as a brooks' branches
Formed by a slender island, flow together.
Or yet again she'd intercalate a touch,
An episode or version. And sometimes
He'd make her hush; or sometimes he'd suspend
While she went on to what she wished to finish,
When he'd resume. They talked together thus.
He found the story and began to tell it,
And she hung on his story, told it too.

This night the rain came down in buckets full,
And Claude who brought the logs in showed his breath
Between the opening of the outer door
And the swift on-rush of the room's warm air.
And my host who had hoed the whole day long,
Hearty at eighty years, sat with his pipe
Reading the organ of the Adventists,
His wife beside him knitting.

On the table
Are several magazines with their monthly grist
Of stories and of pictures. O such stories!
Who writes these stories? How does it happen people
Are born into the world to read these stories?
But anyway the lamp is very bad,
And every bone in me aches--and why always
Must one be either reading, knitting, talking?
Why not sit quietly and think?

At last
Between the clicking needles and the slap
Of cards upon the table and the swish
Of rain upon the window my host speaks:
"It says here when the Germans are defeated,
And that means when the Turks are beaten too,
The Christian world will take back Palestine,
And drive the Turks out. God be praised, I hope so."
"Amen" breaks in the wife. "May we both live
To see the day. Perhaps you'll get your trunk back
From Jaffa if the Allies win."

To me
The wife turns and goes on, "He has a trunk,
At least his trunk went on to Jaffa, and
It never came back. The bishop's trunk came back,
But his trunk never came."

And then the husband:
"What are you saying, mother, you go on
As if our friend here knew the story too.
And then you talk as if our hope of the war
Was centered on recovering that trunk."

"Oh, not at all
But if the Allies win, and the trunk is there
In Jaffa you might get it back. You know
You'll never get it back while infidels
Rule Palestine."

The husband says to me:
"It looks as if she thought that trunk of mine,
Which went to Jaffa fifty years ago,
Is in existence yet, when chances are
They kept it for awhile, and sold it off,
Or threw it away."

"They never threw it away.
Why I made him a dozen shirts or more,
And knitted him a lot of lovely socks,
And made him neck-ties, and that trunk contained
Everything that a man might need in absence
A year from home. And yet they threw it away!"

"They might have done so."

"But they never did,
Perhaps they threw your cabinet tools away?"
"They were too valuable."

"Too valuable,
Fine socks and shirts are worthless are they, yes."

"Not worthless, but fine tools are valuable."
He turns to me: "I lost a box of tools
Sent on to Jaffa, too. The scheme was this:
To work at cabinet making while observing
Conditions there in Palestine, and get ready
To drive the Turks from Palestine."

What's this?
I rub my eyes and wake up to this story.
I'm here in Illinois, in a farmer's house
Who boards stray fishermen, and takes me in.
And in a moment Turks and Palestine,
And that old dream of Louis the Saint arise
And show me how the world is small, and a man
Native to Illinois may travel forth
And mix his life with ancient things afar.
To-day be raising corn here and next month
Walking the streets of Jaffa, in Mycena,
Digging for Grecian relics.

So I asked
"Were you in Palestine?" And the wife spoke quick:
"He didn't get there, that's the joke of it."
And the husband said: "It wasn't such a joke.
You see it was this way, myself and the bishop,
He lived in Springfield, I in Pleasant Plains,
Had planned to meet in Switzerland."

The wife broke in.

"Montreaux" the husband added.
"You said you two had planned it," she went on.
Now looking over specks and speaking louder:
"The bishop came to him, he planned it out.
My husband didn't plan the trip at all.
He knows the bishop planned it."

Then the husband:
"Oh for that matter he spoke of it first,
And I acceded and we worked it out.
He was to go ahead of me, I was
To come in later, soon as I could raise
What funds my congregation could afford
To spare for this adventure."

"Guess," she said,
"How much it was."

I shook my head and she
Said in a lowered and a tragic voice:
"Four hundred dollars, and you can believe
It strapped his church to raise so great a sum.
And if they hadn't thought that Christ would come
Scarcely before the plan could be put through
Of winning back the Holy Land, that sum
Had never been made up and put in gold
For him to carry in a chamois belt."

And then the husband said: "Mother, be still,
I'll tell our friend the story if you'll let me."
"I'm done," she said. "I wanted to say that.
Go on," she said.

And so he started over:
"The bishop came to me and said he thought
The Advent would be June of seventy-six.
This was the winter of eighteen seventy-one.
He said he had a dream; and in this dream
An angel stood beside him, told him so,
And told him to get me and go to Jaffa,
And live there, learn the people and the country,
We were to live disguised the better to learn
The people and the country. I was to work
At my trade as a cabinet maker, he
At carpentry, which was his trade, and so
No one would know us, or suspect our plan.
And thus we could live undisturbed and work,
And get all things in readiness, that in time
The Lord would send us power, and do all things.
We were the messengers to go ahead
And make the ways straight, so I told her of it."

"You told me, yes, but my trust was as great
As yours was in the bishop, little the good
To tell me of it."

"Well, I told you of it.
And she said, 'If the Lord commands you so
You must obey.' And so she knit the socks
And made that trunk of things, as she has said,
And in six weeks I sailed from Philadelphia."

"'Twas nearer two months," said the wife.

Somewhere between six weeks and that. The bishop
Left Springfield in a month from our first talk.
I knew, for I went over when he left.
And I remember how his poor wife cried,
And how the children cried. He had a family
Of some eight children."

"Only seven then,
The son named David died the year before."

"Mother, you're right, 'twas seven children then.
The oldest was not more than twelve, I think,
And all the children cried, and at the train
His congregation almost to a man
Was there to see him off."

"Well, one was missing.
You know, you know," the wife said pregnantly.

"I'll come to that in time, if you'll be still.
Well, so the bishop left, and in six weeks,
Or somewhere there, I started for Montreaux
To meet the bishop. Shipped ahead my trunk
To Jaffa as the bishop did. But now
I must tell you my dream. The night before
I reached Montreaux I had a wondrous dream:
I saw the bishop on the station platform
His face with brandy blossoms splotched and wearing
His gold head cane. And sure enough next day
As I stepped from the train I saw the bishop
His face with brandy blossoms splotched and wearing
His gold head cane. And I thought something wrong,
And still I didn't act upon the thought."

"I should say not," the wife broke in again.

"Oh, well what could I do, if I had thought
More clearly than I did that things were wrong.
You can't uproot the confidence of years
Because of dreams. And as to brandy blossoms
I knew his face was red, but didn't know,
Or think just then, that brandy made it red.
And so I went up to the house he lived in--
A mansion beautiful, and we sat down.
And he sat there bolt upright in a rocker,
Hands spread upon his knees, his black eyes bigger
Than I had ever seen them, eyeing me
Silently for a moment, when he said:
'What money did you bring?' And so I told him.
And he said quickly 'let me have it.' So
I took my belt off, counted out the gold
And gave it to him. And he took it, thrust it
With this hand in this pocket, that in that,
And sat there and said nothing more, just looked!
And then before a word was spoke again
I heard a step upon the stair, the stair
Came down into this room where we were sitting.
And I looked up, and there--I rubbed my eyes--
I looked again, rose from my chair to see,
And saw descending the most lovely woman,
Who was"--

"A lovely woman," sneered the wife
"Well, she was just affinity to the bishop,
That's what she was."

"Affinity is right--
You see she was the leader in the choir,
And she had run away with him, or rather
Had gone abroad upon another boat
And met him in Montreaux. Now from this time
For forty hours or so all is a blank.
I just remember trying to speak and choking,
And flying from the room, the bishop clutching
At my coat sleeve to hold me. After that
I can't recall a thing until I saw
A little cottage way up in the Alps.
I was knocking at the door, was faint and sick,
The door was opened and they took me in,
And warmed me with a glass of wine, and tucked me
In a good bed where I slept half a week.
It seems in my bewilderment I wandered,
Ran, stumbled, climbed for forty hours or so
By rocky chasms, up the piney slopes."

"He might have lost his life," the wife exclaimed.

"These were the kindest people in the world,
A French family. They gave me splendid food,
And when I left two francs to reach the place
Where lived the English Consul, who arranged
After some days for money for my passage
Back to America, and in six weeks
I preached a sermon here in Pleasant Plains."

"Beware of false prophets was the text!" she said.

And I who heard this story through spoke up:
"The thing about this that I fail to get
Concerns this woman, the affinity.
If, as seems evident, she and the bishop
Had planned this run-a-way and used the faith,
And you, the congregation to get money
To do it with, or used you in particular
To get the money for themselves to live on
After they had arrived there in Montreaux,
If all this be" I said, "why did this woman
Descend just at the moment when he asked you
For the money that you had. You might have seen her
Before you gave the money, if you had
You might have held it back."

"I would indeed,
You can be sure I should have held it back."

And then the old wife gasped and dropped her knitting.

"Now, James, you let me answer that, I know.
She was done with the bishop, that's the reason.
Be still and let me answer. Here's the story:
We found out later that the bishop's trunk
And kit of tools had been returned from Jaffa
There to Montreaux, were there that very day,
Which means the bishop never meant to go
To Palestine at all, but meant to meet
This woman in Montreaux and live with her.
Well, that takes money. So he used my husband
To get that money. Now you wonder I see
Why she would chance the spoiling of the scheme,
Descend into the room before my husband
Had given up this money, and this money,
You see, was treated as a common fund
Belonging to the church and to be used
To get back Palestine, and so the bishop
As head of the church, superior to my husband,
Could say 'give me the money'--that was natural,
My husband could not be surprised at that,
Or question it. Well, why did she descend
And almost lose the money? Oh, the cat!
I know what she did, as well as I had seen
Her do it. Yes, she listened at the landing.
And when she heard my husband tell the sum
Which he had brought, it wasn't enough to please her,
And Satan entered in her heart, and she
Waited until she heard the bishop's pockets
Clink with the double eagles, then descended
To expose the bishop and disgrace him there
And everywhere in all the world. Now listen:
She got that money or the most of it
In spite of what she did. For in six weeks
After my husband had returned, she walked,
The brazen thing, the public streets of Springfield
As jaunty as you please, and pretty soon
The bishop died and all the papers printed
The story of his shame."

She had scarce finished
When the man at solitaire threw down the deck
And make a whacking noise and rose and came
Around in front of us and stood and looked
The old man and old woman over, me
He studied too. Then in an organ voice:
"Is there a single verse in the New Testament
That hasn't sprouted one church anyway,
Letting alone the verses that have sprouted
Two, three or four or five? I know of one:
Where is it that it says that "Jesus wept"?
Let's found a church on that verse, "Jesus wept."
With that he went out in the rain and slammed
The door behind him.

The old clergyman
Had fallen asleep. His wife looked up and said,
"That man is crazy, ain't he? I'm afraid."


A lassie sells the War Cry on the corner
And the big drum booms, and the raucous brass horns
Mingle with the cymbals and the silver triangle.
I stand a moment listening, then my friend
Who studies all religions, finds a wonder
In orphic spectacles like this, lays hold
Upon my arm and draws me to a door
Through which we look and see a room of seats,
A platform at the end, a table on it,
And signs upon the wall, "Jesus is Waiting,"
And "God is Love."

We enter, take a seat.
The band comes in and fills the room to bursting
With horns and drums. They cease and feet are heard,
The crowd has followed, half the seats are full.
After a prayer, a song, the captain mounts
The platform by the table and begins:
"Praise God so many girls are here to-night,
And Sister Trickey, by the grace of God
Saved from the wrath to come, will speak to you."
So Sister Trickey steps upon the platform,
A woman nearing forty, one would say.
Blue-eyed, fair skinned, and yellow haired, a figure
Once trim enough, no doubt, grown stout at last.
She was a pretty woman in her time,
'Twas plain to see. A shrewd intelligence
From living in the world shines in her face.
We settle down to hear from Sister Trickey
And in a moment she begins:

"Young girls:
I thank the Lord for Jesus, for he saved me,
I thank the Lord for Jesus every hour.
No woman ever stained with redder sins.
Had greater grace than mine. Praise God for Jesus!
Praise God for blood that washes sins away!
I was a woman fallen till Lord Jesus
Forgave me, helped me up and made me clean.
My name is Lilah Trickey. Let me tell you
How music was my tempter. Oh, you girls,
If there be one before me who can sing
Beware the devil and beware your voice
That it be used for Jesus, not for Satan."

"I had a voice, was leader of the choir,
But Satan entered in my voice to tempt
The bishop of the church, and in my heart
To tempt and use the bishop; in the bishop
Old Satan slipped to lure me from the path.
He fell from grace for listening. And I
Whose voice had turned him over to the devil
Fell as he fell. He dragged me down with him.
No use to make it long, one word's enough:
Old Satan is the first word and the last,
And all between is nothing. It's enough
To say the bishop and myself eloped
Went to Montreaux. He left a wife and children.
And I poor silly thing with promises
Of culture of my voice in Paris, lost
Good name and all. And he lost all as well.
Good name, his soul I fear, because he took
The church's money saying he would use it
To win the Holy Sepulchre, in fact
Intending all the while to use the money
For travel and for keeping up a house
With me as soul-mate. For he never meant
To let me go to Paris for my voice,
He never got enough to pay for that.
On that point he betrayed me, now I see
'Twas God who used him to deceive me there,
And leave me to return to Springfield broken,
An out-cast, fallen woman, shamed and scorned."

"We took a house in Montreaux, plain enough
As we looked at it passing, but within
'Twas sweet and fair as Satan could desire:
Engravings on the wall and marble mantels,
Gilt clocks upon the mantels, lovely rugs,
Chests full of linen, silver, pewter, china,
Soft beds with canopies of figured satin,
The scent of apple blossoms through the rooms.
A little garden, vines against the wall.
There were the lake and mountains. Oh, but Satan
Baited the hook with beauty. But the bishop
Seemed self-absorbed, depressed and never smiled.
And every time his face came close to mine
I smelled the brandy on him. Conscience whipped
Its venomed tail against his peace of mind.
And so he took the brandy to benumb
The sting of conscience and to dull the pain.
He told me he had business in Montreaux
Which would require some weeks, would there be met
By people who had money for him. I
Was twenty-three and green, besides I walked
In dreamland thinking of the promised schooling
In Paris--oh 'twas music, as I said.". ...

"At last one day he said a friend was coming,
And he went to the station. Very soon
I heard their steps, the bishop and his friend.
They entered. I was curious and sat
Upon the stair-way's landing just to hear.
And this is what I heard. The bishop asked:
'You've brought some money, how much have you brought?'

The man replied 'four hundred dollars.' Then
The bishop said: 'I'll take it.' In a moment
I heard the clinking gold and heard the bishop
Putting it in his pocket.'

"God forgive me,
I never was so angry in my life.
The bishop had been talking in big figures,
We would have thousands for my voice and Paris,
And here was just a paltry sum. Scarce knowing
Just what I did, perhaps I wished to see
The American who brought the money--well,
No matter what it was, I walked in view
Upon the landing, stood there for a moment
And saw our visitor, a clergyman
From all appearances. He stared, grew red,
Large eyed and apoplectic, then he rose,
Walked side-ways, backward, stumbled toward the door,
Rattled with shaking hand the knob and jerked
The door ajar, with open mouth backed out
Upon the street and ran. I heard him run
A square at least."

"The bishop looked at me,
His face all brandy blossoms, left the room,
Came back at once with brandy on his breath.
And all that day was tippling, went to bed
So drunk I had to take his clothing off
And help him in."

"Young girls, beware of music,
Save only hymns and sacred oratorios.
Beware the theatre and dancing hall.
Take lesson from my fate.

"The morning came.
The bishop called me, he was very ill
And pale with fear. He had a dream that night.
Satan had used him and abandoned him.
And Death, whom only Jesus can put down,
Was standing by the bed. He called to me,
And said to me:

"'That money's in that drawer.
Use it to reach America, but use it
To send my body back. Death's in the corner
Behind that cabinet--there--see him look!
I had a dream--go get a pen and paper,
And write down what I tell you. God forgive me--
Oh what a blasphemer am I. O, woman,
To lie here dying and to know that God
Has left me--hell awaits me--horrible!
Last night I dreamed this man who brought the money,
This man and I were walking from Damascus,
And in a trice came down to Olivet.
Just then great troops of men sprang up around us
And hailed us as expecting our approach.
And there I saw the faces--hundreds maybe,
Of congregations who had trusted me
In all the long past years--Oh, sinful woman,
Why did you cross my path,' he moaned at times,
'And wreck my ministry.'

"'And so these crowds
Armed as it seemed, exulted, called me general,
And shouted forward. So we ran like mad
And came before a building with a dome--
You know--I've seen a picture of it somewhere.
And so the crowds yelled: let the bishop enter
And see the sepulchre, while we keep guard.
They pushed me in. But when I was inside
There was no dome, above us was the sky,
And what seemed walls was nothing but a fence.
Before us was a stable with a stall
Where two cows munched the hay. There was a farmer
Who with a pitchfork bedded down the stall.
"Where is the holy sepulchre?" I asked--
"My army's at the door." He kept at work
And never raised his eyes and only said:
"Don't know; I haven't time for things like that.
You're 'bout the hundredth man who's asked me that.
We don't know where it is, nor do we care.
We live here and we knew him, so we feel
Less interest than you. But have you thought
If you should find it it would only be
A tomb like other tombs? Why look at this:
Here is the very manger where he lay--
What is it? Just a manger filled with straw.
These cows are not the very cows you know--
But cows are cows in every age and place.
I think that board there has been nailed on since.
Outside of that the place is just the same.
Now what's the good of seeing it? His mother
Lay in that corner there, what if she did?
That lantern on the wall's the very one
They came to see the child with from the inn--
What of it? Take your army and go on,
And leave me with my barn and with my cows."

"'So all the glory vanished! Devil magic
Stripped all the glory off. No angels singing,
No star of Bethlehem, no magi kneeling,
No Mary crowned, no Jesus King, no mystic
Blood for sins' remission--just a barn,
A stall, two cows, a lantern--all the glory--
Swept from the gospel. That's my punishment:
My poor weak brain filled full of all this dream,
Which seems as real as life--to lie here dying
Too weak to shake the dream! To see Death there
Behind that cabinet--there--see him look--
By God forsaken--all theology,
All mystery, all wonder, all delight
Of spiritual vision swept away as clean
As winds sweep up the clouds, and thus to see
While dying, just a manger, and two cows,
A lantern on the wall.

"'And thus to see,
For blasphemy that duped an honest heart,
And took the pitiful dollars of the flock
To win you with--oh, woman, woman, woman,
A barn, a stall, a lantern limned so clear
In such a daylight of clear seeing senses
That all the splendor, the miraculous
Wonder of the virgin, nimbused child,
The star that followed till it rested over
The manger (such a manger) all are wrecked,
All blotted from belief, all snatched away
From hands pushed off by God, no longer holding
The robes of God.'

"And so the bishop raved
While I stood terrified, since I could feel
Death in the room, and almost see the monster
Behind the cabinet.

"Then the bishop said:
"'My dream went on. I crossed the stable yard
And passed into a place of tombs. And look!
Before I knew I stepped into a hole,
A sunken grave with just a slab at head,
And "Jesus" carven on it, nothing else,
No date, no birth, no parentage.'"

"'I lie
Tormented by the pictures of this dream.
Woman, take to your death bed with clear mind
Of gospel faith, clean conscience, sins forgiven.
The thoughts that we must suffer with and die with
Are worth the care of all the days of life.
All life should be directed to this end,
Lest when the mind lies fallen, vultures swoop,
And with their wings blot out the sun of faith,
And with their croakings drown the voice of God.'

"He ceased, became delirious. So he died,
And I still unrepentant buried him
There in Montreaux, and with what gold remained
Went on to Paris.

"See how I was marked
For God's salvation.

"There I went to see
The celebrated teacher Jean Strakosch,
Who looked at me with insolent, calm eyes,
And face impassive, let me sing a scale,
Then shook his head. A diva, as I thought,
Came in just then. They talked in French, and I,
Prickling from head to foot with shame, ignored,
Left standing like a fool, passed from the room.
So music turned on me, but God received me,
And I came back to Springfield. But the Lord
Made life too hard for me without the fold.
I was so shunned and scorned, I had no place
Save with the fallen, with the mockers, drinkers.
Thus being in conviction, after struggles,
And many prayers I found salvation, found
My work in life: which is to talk to girls
And stand upon this platform and relate
My story for their good."

She ceased. Amens
Went up about the room. The big drum boomed,
And the raucous brass horns mingled with the cymbals,
The silver triangle and the singing voices.

My friend and I arose and left the room.


"Then what is life?" I cried. And with that cry
I woke from deeper slumber--was it sleep?--
And saw a hooded figure standing by
The bed whereon I lay.

"Why do you keep,
O spirit beautiful and swift, this guard
About my slumber? Shelley, from the deep
Why do you come with veiled face, mighty bard,
As that unearthly shape was veiled to you
At Casa Magni?"

Then the room was starred
With light as I was speaking, and I knew
The god, my brother, from whose face the veil
Melted as mist.

"What mission fair and true,
While I am sleeping, brings you? For I pale
Amid this solemn stillness, for your face
Unutterably majestic."

As when the dale
At midnight echoes for a little space,
The night-bird's cry, the god responded "Come,"
And nothing more. I left my bed apace,
And followed him with wings above the gloom
Of clouds like chariots driven on to war,
Between whose wheels the swift moon raced and swum.

A mile beneath us lay the earth, afar
Were mountains which as swift as thought drew near
As we passed over pines, where many a star
And heaven's light made every frond as clear
As through a glass or in the lightning's flash. ...
Yet I seemed flying from an olden fear,
A bulk of black that sought to sting or gnash
My breast or side--which was myself, it seemed,
The flesh or thinking part of me grown rash
And violent, a brain soul unredeemed,
Which sometime earlier in the grip of Death
Forgot its terror when my soul which streamed
Like ribbons of silk fire, with quiet breath
Said to the body, as it were a thing
Separate and indifferent: "How uneath
That fellow turns, while I am safe yet cling
Close to him, both another and the same."
Now was this mood reversed: That self must wing
Its fastest flight to fly him, lest he maim
With fleshly hands my better, stronger part,
As dragon wings my flap and quench a flame. ...
But as we passed o'er empires and athwart
A bellowing strait, beholding bergs and floes
And running tides which made the sinking heart
Rise up again for breath, I felt how close
The god, my brother, was, who would sustain
My wings whatever dangers might oppose,
And knowing him beside me, like a strain
Of music were his thoughts, though nothing yet
Was spoken by him.

When as out of rain
Suddenly lights may break, the earth was set
Beneath us, and we stood and paused to see
The Dussel river from a parapet
Of earth and rock. Then bending curiously,
As reaching, in a moment with his hand
He scraped the turf and stones, pried up a key
Of harder granite, and at his command,
When he had made an opening, I slid
And sank, down, down through the Devonian land
Until with him I reached a cavern hid
From every eye but ours, and where no light
But from our faces was, a pyramid
Of hills that walled this crypt of soundless night.
Then in a mood, it seemed more fanciful,
He bent again and raked, and to my sight
Upheaved and held the remnant of a skull--
Gorilla's or a man's, I could not guess.
Yet brutal though it was, it was a hull
Too fine and large to house the nakedness
Of a beast's mind.

But as I looked the god
Began these words: "Before the iron stress
Of the north pole's dominion fell, he trod
The wastes of Europe, ere the Nile was made
A granary for the east, or ere the clod
In Babylon or India baked was laid
For hovels, this man lived. Ten thousand years
Before the earliest pyramid cast its shade
Upon the desolate sands this thing of fears,
Lusts, hungers, lived and hunted, woke and slept,
Mated, produced its kind, with hairy ears,
And tiger eyes sensed all that you accept
In terms of thought or vision as the proof
Of immanent Power or Love. But this skull kept
The intangible meaning out. This heavy roof
Of brutish bone above the eyes was dead
Even to lower ethers, no behoof
Of seasons, stars or skies took, though they bred
Suspicions, fears, or nervous glances, thought,
Which silent as a lizard's shadow fled
Before it graved itself, passed over, wrought
No vision, only pain, which he deemed pangs
Of hunger or of thirst."

As you have sought
The meaning of life's riddle, since it hangs
In waking or in slumber just above
The highest reach of prophecy, and fangs
With poison of despair all moods but love,
Behold its secret lettered on this brow
Placed by your own!

This is the word thereof:
_Change and progression from the glazed slough,
Where life creeps and is blind, ascending up
The jungled slopes for prey till spirits bow
On Calvaries with crosses, take the cup
Of martyrdom for truth's sake._

It may be
Men of to-day make monstrous war, sleep, sup,
Traffic, build shrines, as earliest history
Records the earliest day, and that the race
Is what it was in virtue, charity,
And nothing better. But within this face
No light shone from that realm where Hindostan,
Delving in numbers, watching stars took grace
And inspiration to explore the plan
Of heaven and earth. And of the scheme the test
Is not five thousand years, which leave the van
Just where it was, but this change manifest
In fifty thousand years between the mind
Neanderthal's and Shelley's.

Man progressed
Along these years, found eyes where he was blind,
Put instinct under thought, crawled from the cave,
And faced the sun, till somewhere heaven's wind
Mixed with the light of Lights descending, gave
To mind a touch of divinity, making whole
An undeveloped growth.

As ships that brave
Great storms at sea on masts a flaming coal
From heaven catch, bear on, so man was wreathed
Somewhere with lightning and became a soul.
Into his nostrils purer fire was breathed
Than breath of life itself, and by a leap,
As lightning leaps from crag to crag, what seethed
In man from the beginning broke the sleep
That lay on consciousness of self, with eyes
Awakened saw himself, out of the deep
And wonder of the self caught the surmise
Of Power beyond this world, and felt it through
The flow of living.

And so man shall rise
From this illumination, from this clue
To perfect knowledge that this Power exists,
And what man is to this Power, even as you
Have left Neanderthal lost in the mists
And ignorance of centuries untold.
What would you say if learned geologists
Out of the rocks and caverns should unfold
The skulls of greater races, records, books
To shame us for our day, could we behold
Therein our retrogression? Wonder looks
In vain for these, discovers everywhere
Proof of the root which darkly bends and crooks
Far down and far away; a stalk more fair
Upspringing finds its proof, buds on the stalk
The eye may see, at last the flowering flare
Of man to-day!

I see the things which balk,
Retard, divert, draw into sluices small,
But who beholds the stream turned back to mock,
Not just itself, but make equivocal
A Universal Reason, Vision? No.
You find no proof of this, but prodigal
Proof of ascending Life!

So life shall flow
Here on this globe until the final fruit
And harvest. As it were until the glow
Of the great blossom has the attribute
In essence, color of eternal things,
And shows no rim between its hues which suit
The infinite sky's. Then if the dead earth swings
A gleaned and stricken field amid the void
What matters it to you, a soul with wings,
Whether it be replanted or destroyed?
Has it not served you?"

Now his voice was still,
Which in such discourse had been thus employed.
And in that lonely cavern dark and chill
I heard again, "Then what is life?" And woke
To find the moonlight on the window sill
That which had seemed his presence. And a cloak,
Whose hood was perked upon the moonbeams, made
The skull of the Neanderthal. The smoke
Blown from the fireplace formed the cavern's shade.
And roaring winds blew down as they had tuned
The voice which left me calm and unafraid.


_There's the dragon banner, says Old King Cole,
And the tiger banner, he cries.
Pantagruel breaks into a laugh
As the monarch dries his eyes.--The Search

"The tiger banyer, that is what you call much
Bad men in China, Amelica. The dragon banyer.
That is storm, leprosy, no rice, what you call
Nature. See! Nature!"--King Joy_

* * * * *

Said Old King Cole I know the banner
Of dragon and tiger too,
But I would know the vagrant fellows
Who came to my castle with you.

* * * * *

And I would know why they rise in the morning
And never take bread or scrip;
And why they hasten over the mountain
In a sorrowed fellowship.

* * * * *

Then said Pantagruel: Heard you not?
One said he goes to Spain.
One said he goes to Elsinore,
And one to the Trojan plain.

* * * * *

Faith, if it be, said Old King Cole,
There is a word that's more:
Who is it goes to Spain and Troy?
And who to Elsinore?

* * * * *

One may be Quixote, said Pantagruel,
Out for the final joust.
One may be Hamlet, said Pantagruel
And one I think is Faust.

* * * * *

Whoever they be, said Pantagruel,
Why stand at the window and drool?
Let's out and catch the runaways
While the morning hour is cool.

* * * * *

Pantagruel runs to the castle court,
And King Cole follows soon.
The cobblestones of the court yard ring
To the beat of their flying shoon.

* * * * *

Pantagruel clutches the holy bottle,
And King Cole clutches his crown.
They throw the bolt of the castle gate
And race them through the town.

* * * * *

They cross the river and follow the road,
They run by the willow trees,
And the tiger banner and dragon banner
Wait for the morning breeze.

* * * * *

They clamber the wall and part the brambles,
And tear through thicket and thorn.
And a wild dove in an olive tree
Does mourn and mourn and mourn.

* * * * *

A green snake starts in the tangled grass,
And springs his length at their feet.
And a condor circles the purple sky
Looking for carrion meat.

* * * * *

And mad black flies are over their heads,
And a wolf looks out of his hole.
Great drops of sweat break out and run
From the brow of Old King Cole.

* * * * *

Said Old King Cole: A drink, my friend,
From the holy bottle, I pray.
My breath is short, my feet run blood,
My throat is baked as clay.

* * * * *

Anon they reach a mountain top,
And a mile below in the plain
Are the glitter of guns and a million men
Led by an idiot brain.

* * * * *

They come to a field of slush and flaw
Red with a blood red dye.
And a million faces fungus pale
Stare horribly at the sky.

* * * * *

They come to a cross where a rotting thing
Is slipping down from the nails.
And a raven perched on the eyeless skull
Opens his beak and rails:

* * * * *

"If thou be the Son of man come down,
Save us and thyself save."
Pantagruel flings a rock at the raven:
"How now blaspheming knave!"

* * * * *

"Come down and of my bottle drink,
And cease this scurvy rune."
But the raven flapped its wings and laughed
Loud as the water loon.

* * * * *

Said Old King Cole: A drink, my friend,
I faint, a drink in haste.
But when he drinks he pales and mutters:
"The wine has lost its taste."

* * * * *

"You have gone mad," said Pantagruel,
"In faith 'tis the same old wine."
Pantagruel drinks at the holy bottle
But the flavor is like sea brine.

* * * * *

And there on a rock is a cypress tree,
And a form with a muffled face.
"I know you, Death," said Pantagruel,
"But I ask of you no grace."

* * * * *

"Empty my bottle, sour my wine,
Bend me, you shall not break."
"Oh well," said Death, "one woe at a time
Before I come and take."

* * * * *

"You have lost everything in life but the bottle,
Youth and woman and friend.
Pass on and laugh for a little space yet
The laugh that has an end."

* * * * *

Pantagruel passes and looks around him
Brave and merry of soul.
But there on the ground lies a dead body,
The body of Old King Cole.

* * * * *

And a Voice said: Take the body up
And carry the body for me
Until you come to a silent water,
By the sands of a silent sea.

* * * * *

Pantagruel takes the body up
And the dead fat bends him down.
He climbs the mountains, runs the valleys
With body, bottle and crown.

* * * * *

And the wastes are strewn with skulls,
And the desert is hot and cursed.
And a phantom shape of the holy bottle
Mocks his burning thirst.

* * * * *

Pantagruel wanders seven days,
And seven nights wanders he.
And on the seventh night he rests him
By the sands of the silent sea.

* * * * *

And sees a new made fire on the shore,
And on the fire is a dish.
And by the fire two travelers sleep,
And two are broiling fish.

* * * * *

Don Quixote and Hamlet are sleeping,
And Faust is stirring the fire.
But the fourth is a stranger with a face
Starred with a great desire.

* * * * *

Pantagruel hungers, Pantagruel thirsts,
Pantagruel falls to his knees.
He flings down the body of Old King Cole
As a man throws off disease.

* * * * *

And rolls his burden away and cries:
"Take and watch, if you will.
But as for me I go to France
My bottle to refill."

* * * * *

"And as for me I go to France
To fill this bottle up."
He felt at his side for the holy bottle,
And found it turned a cup.

* * * * *

And the stranger said: Behold our friend
Has brought my cup to me.
That is the cup whereof I drank
In the garden Gethsemane.

* * * * *

Pantagruel hands the cup to Jesus
Who dips it in sea brine.
This is the water, says Jesus of Nazareth,
Whereof I make your wine.

* * * * *

And Faust takes the cup from Jesus of Nazareth,
And his lips wear a purple stain.
And Faust hands the cup to Pantagruel
With the dregs for him to drain.

* * * * *

Pantagruel drinks and falls into slumber,
And Jesus strokes his hair.
And Faust sings a song of Euphorion
To hide his heart's despair.

* * * * *

And Faust takes the hand of Jesus of Nazareth,
And they walk by the purple deep.
Says Jesus of Nazareth: "Some are watchers,
And some grow tired and sleep."


He follows me no more, I said, nor stands
Beside me. And I wake these later days
In an April mood, a wonder light and free.
The vision is gone, but gone the constant pain
Of constant thought. I see dawn from my hill,
And watch the lights which fingers from the waters
Twine from the sun or moon. Or look across
The waste of bays and marshes to the woods,
Under the prism colors of the air,
Held in a vacuum silence, where the clouds,
Like cyclop hoods are tossed against the sky
In terrible glory.

And earth charmed I lie
Before the staring sphinx whose musing face
Is this Egyptian heaven, and whose eyes
Are separate clouds of gold, whose pedestal
Is earth, whose silken sheathed claws
No longer toy with me, even while I stroke them:
Since I have ceased to tease her.

Then behold
A breeze is blown out of a world becalmed,
And as I see the multitudinous leaves
Fluttered against the water and the light,
And see this light unveil itself, reveal
An inner light, a Presence, Secret splendor,
I clap hands over eyes, for the earth reels;
And I have fears of dieties shown or spun
From nothingness. But when I look again
The earth has stayed itself, I see the lake,
The leaves, the light of the sun, the cyclop hoods
Of thunder heads, yet feel upon my arm
A hand I know, and hear a voice I know--
He has returned and brought with him the thought
And the old pain.

The voice says: "Leave the sphinx.
The garden waits your study fully grown."
And I arise and follow down a slope
To a lawn by the lake and an ancient seat of stone,
And near it a fountain's shattered rim enclosing
An Eros of light mood, whose sculptured smile
Consciously dimples for the unveiled pistil of love,
As he strokes with baby hand the slender arching
Neck of a swan. And here is a peristyle
Whose carven columns are pink as the long updrawn
Stalks of tulips bedded in April snow.
And sunk amid tiger lillies is the face
Of an Asian Aphrodite close to the seat
With feet of a Babylonian lion amid
This ruined garden of yellow daisies, poppies
And ruddy asphodel from Crete, it seems,
Though here is our western moon as white and thin
As an abalone shell hung under the boughs
Of an oak, that is mocked by the vastness of sky between
His boughs and the moon in this sky of afternoon. ...
We walk to the water's edge and here he shows me
Green scum, or stalks, or sedges, grasses, shrubs,
That yield to trees beyond the levels, where
The beech and oak have triumph; for along
This gradual growth from algae, reeds and grasses,
That builds the soil against the water's hands,
All things are fierce for place and garner life
From weaker things.

And then he shows me root stocks,
And Alpine willow, growths that sneak and crawl
Beneath the soil. Or as we leave the lake
And walk the forest I behold lianas,
Smilax or woodbine climbing round the trunks
Of giant trees that live and out of earth,
And out of air make strength and food and ask
No other help. And in this place I see
Spiral bryony, python of the vines
That coils and crushes; and that banyan tree
Whose spreading branches drop new roots to earth,
And lives afar from where the parent trunk
Has sunk its roots, so that the healthful sun
Is darkened: as a people might be darkened
By ignorance or want or tyranny,
Or dogma of a jungle hidden faith.
Why is it, think I, though I dare not speak,
That this should be to forests or to men;
That water fails, and light decreases, heat
Of God's air lessens, and the soil goes spent,
Till plants change leaves and stalks and seeds as well,
Or migrate from the olden places, go
In search of life, or if they cannot move
Die in the ruthless marches.

That is life, he said.
For even these, the giants scatter life
Into the maws of death. That towering tree
That for these hundred years has leafed itself,
And through its leaves out of the magic air
Drawn nutriment for annual girths, took root
Out of an acorn which good chance preserved,

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