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Toward the Gulf by Edgar Lee Masters

Part 5 out of 5

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While all its brother acorns cast to earth,
To make trees, by a parent tree now gone,
Were crushed, devoured, or strangled as they sprouted
Amid thick jealous growth wherein they fell.
All acorns but this one were lost.

Then he reads
My questioning thought and shows me yuccas, cactus
Whose thick leaves in the rainless places thrive.
And shows me leaves that must have rain, and roots
That must have water where the river flows.
And how the spirit of life, though turned or driven
This way or that beyond a course begun,
Cannot be stayed or quenched, but moves, conforms
To soil and sun, makes roots, or thickens leaves,
Or thins or re-adjusts them on the stem
To fashion forth itself, produce its kind.
Nor dies not, rests not, nor surrenders not,
Is only changed or buried, re-appears
As other forms of life.

We had walked through
A forest of sequoias, beeches, pines,
And ancient oaks where I could see the trace
Of willows, alders, ruined or devoured
By the great Titans.

At last
We reached my hill and sat and overlooked
The garden at our feet, even to the place
Of tiger lilies and of asphodel,
By now beneath the self-same moon, grown denser:
As where the wounded surface of the shell
Thickens its shimmering stuff in spiral coigns
Of the shell, so was the moon above the seat
Beside the Eros and the Aphrodite
Sunk amid yellow daisies and deep grass.
And here we sat and looked. And here my vision
Was over all we saw, but not a part
Of what we saw, for all we saw stood forth
As foreign to myself as something touched
To learn the thing it is.

I might have asked
Who owns this garden, for the thought arose
With my surprise, who owns this garden, who
Planted this garden, why and to what end,
And why this fight for place, for soil and sun
Water and air, and why this enmity
Between the things here planted, and between
Flying or crawling life and plants, and whence
The power that falls in one place but arises
Some other place; and why the unceasing growth
Of all these forms that only come to seed,
Then disappear to enrich the insatiate soil
Where the new seed falls? But silence kept me there
For wonder of the beauty which I saw,
Even while the faculty of external vision
Kept clear the garden separate from me,
Envisioned, seen as grasses, sedges, alders,
As forestry, as fields of wheat and corn,
As the vast theatre of unceasing life,
Moving to life and blind to all but life;
As places used, tried out, as if the gardener,
For his delight or use, or for an end
Of good or beauty made experiments
With seed or soils or crossings of the seed.
Even as peoples, epochs, did the garden
Lie to my vision, or as races crowding,
Absorbing, dispossessing, killing races,
Not only for a place to grow, but under
A stimulus of doctrine: as Mahomet,
Or Jesus, like a vital change of air,
Or artifice of culture, made the garden,
Which mortals call the world, grow in a way,
And overgrow the world as neither dreamed.
Who is the Gardener then? Or is there one
Beside the life within the plant, within
The python climbers, wandering sedges, root stalks,
Thorn bushes, night-shade, deadly saprophytes,
Goths, Vandals, Tartars, striving for more life,
And praying to the urge within as God,
The Gardener who lays out the garden, sprays
For insects which devour, keeps rich the soil
For those who pray and know the Gardener
As One who is without and over-sees? ...

But while in contemplation of the garden,
Whether from failing day or from departure
Of my own vision in the things it saw,
Bereft of penetrating thought I sank,
Became a part of what I saw and lost
The great solution.

As we sat in silence,
And coming night, what seemed the sinking moon,
Amid the yellow sedges by the lake
Began to twinkle, as a fire were blown--
And it was fire, the garden was afire,
As it were all the world had flamed with war.
And a wind came out of the bright heaven
And blew the flames, first through the ruined garden,
Then through the wood, the fields of wheat, at last
Nothing was left but waste and wreaths of smoke
Twisting toward the stars. And there he sat
Nor uttered aught, save when I sighed he said
"If it be comforting I promise you
Another spring shall come."

"And after that?"
"Another spring--that's all I know myself,
There shall be springs and springs!"

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