ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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{The Book of Orm 1870}

 

                                                                                                                                                                 165

XXI.

GOD THE IMAGE.

 

Impassive, beautiful, and desolate,
     Is this the Lord my God, whom I entreat?
Powerless to stay the ravages of fate—
     Jove with his right hand palsied, Jove effete,
     Fetter’d by frost upon a stony seat—
O dreadful apparition! Can this be?
     Yonder He looms, where never a heart doth beat,
In the cold ether of theology.
Come down! come down! O Souls that wander there!
Cold are the snows, chill is the dreadful air—
     Come down! come down into the Valleys deep;
Leave the wild Image to the stars, that rise
Around about it with affrighted eyes;
     Come to green under-glooms, and sink, and sleep.

 

                                                                                                       166

XXII.

THE FOOTPRINTS.

 

Come to green under-glooms,—and in your hair
     Weave nightshade, foxglove red, and rank wolfsbane,
     And slumber and forget Him; if in vain
Ye try to slumber off your sorrow there,
Arise once more and openly repair
     To busy haunts where men and women sigh,
And if all things but echo back your care,
     Cry out aloud, “There is no God!” and die.
But if upon a day when all is dark,
Thou, stooping in the public ways, shalt mark
     Strange luminous footprints as of feet that shine—
Follow them! follow them! O soul bereaven!
God had a Son—He hath pass’d that way to heaven;
     Follow, and look upon the Face divine!

 

                                                                                                       167

XXIII.

WE ARE DEATHLESS.

 

Yet hear me, Mountains! echo me, O Sea!
     Murmur an answer, Winds, from out your caves;
     Cry loudly, Torrents, Mountains, Winds, and Waves—
Hark to my crying all, and echo me—
All things that live are deathless—I and ye.
     The Father could not slay us if he would;
     The elements in all their multitude
Will rise against their Master terribly,
If but one hair upon a human head
     Should perish! . . . Darkness grows on crag and steep,
A hollow thunder fills the torrent’s bed;
     The wild Mists moan and threaten as they creep;
And hush! now, when all other cries are fled,
     The warning murmur of the white-hair’d Deep.

 

                                                                                                       168

XXIV.

A VOICE IN THE WHIRLWIND.

 

I heard a Whirlwind on the mountain peak
     Pause for a space its furious flight and cry—
“There is no Death!” loudly it seemed to shriek;
     “Nothing that is, beneath the sun, shall die.”
     The frail sick Vapours echoed, drifting by—
“There is no Death, but change early and late;
Powerless were God’s right Hand full arm’d with fate,
     To slay the meanest thing beneath the sky.”
Yea, even as tremulous foam-bells on the sea,
     Coming and going, are all things of breath;
But evermore, deathless, and bright, and free,
     We re-emerge, in spite of Change or Death.
Hearken, O Mountains! Waters, echo me!
     O wild Wind, echo what the Man-Wind saith!

 

                                                                                                       169

XXV.

CRY OF THE LITTLE BROOK.

 

Christ help me! whither would my dark thoughts run!                        [1]
     I look around me, trembling fearfully;
The dreadful silence of the Silent One                                               [3]
     Freezes my lips, and all is sad to see.
     Hark! hark! what small voice murmurs “God made me!”
It is the Brooklet, singing all alone,
Sparkling with pleasure that is all its own,
     And running, self-contented, sweet, and free.
O Brooklet, born where never grass is green,
     Finding the stony hill and flowing fleet,
Thou comest as a Messenger serene,
     With shining wings and silver-sandal’d feet;
Faint falls thy music on a Soul unclean,
     And, in a moment, all the World looks sweet!

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
l. 1: Christ help me! whither would my dark thoughts flow?
l. 3: The dreadful silence of the peaks of snow ]

 

                                                                                                       170

XXVI.

THE HAPPY HEARTS OF EARTH.

 

Whence thou hast come, thou knowest not, little Brook,
     Nor whither thou art bound. Yet wild and gay,
Pleased in thyself, and pleasing all that look,
     Thou wendest, all the seasons, on thy way;
     The lonely glen grows gladsome with thy play,
Thou glidest lamb-like thro’ the ghostly shade;
To think of solemn things thou wast not made,
     But to sing on, for pleasure, night and day.
Such happy hearts are wandering, crystal clear,
     In the great world where men and women dwell;
Earth’s mighty shows they neither love nor fear,
     They are content to be, while I rebel,
Out of their own delight dispensing cheer,
     And ever softly whispering, “All is well!”

 

                                                                                                       171

XXVII.

FATHER, FORGIVE THY CHILD.

 

O sing, clear Brook, sing on, while in a dream
     I feel the sweetness of the years go by!
The crags and peaks are softened now, and seem
     Gently to sleep against the gentle sky;
     Old scenes and faces glimmer up and die,
With outlines of sweet thought obscured too long;
     Like boys that shout at play far voices cry;
O sing! for I am weeping at the song.
I know not what I am, but only know
     I have had glimpses tongue may never speak;
No more I balance human joy and woe,
     But think of my transgressions, and am meek.
Father! forgive the child who fretted so,—
     His proud heart yields,—the tears are on his cheek!

 

                                                                                                       172

XXVIII.

GOD’S LONELINESS.

 

When, in my strong affection, I have sought
     To play at Providence with men of clay,
How hath my good come constantly to nought,
     How hath my light and love been cast away,—
     How hath my light been light to lead astray,
How hath my love become of sorry worth,
     How feeble hath been all my soul’s essay
To aid one single man on all God’s earth!
Father in Heaven, when I think these things,
     Helpless Thou seemest to redeem our plight—
Thy lamp shines on shut eyes—each Spirit springs
     To its own stature still in Thy despite—
While haggard Nature round Thy footstool clings,
     Pale, powerless, sitt’st Thou, in a Lonely Light.

 

                                                                                                       173

XXIX.

THE CUP OF TEARS.

 

My God! my God! with passionate appeal,
     Pardon I crave for these mad moods of mine,—
Can I remember, with no heart to feel,
     The gift of Thy dear Son, the Man Divine—
     My God! what agonies of love were Thine,
Sitting alone, forgotten, on Thy height,
Pale, powerless, awful in that Lonely Light,
     While ’neath Thy feet the cloudy hyaline
Rain’d blood upon the darkness,—where Thine Own
     Held the black Cup of all earth’s tears, and cried!
Ev’n then, tho’ Thou wert conscious of his groan,
     Pale in that Lonely Light Thou didst abide,
Nor dared, even then, tho’ shaken on Thy throne,
     To reach Thy hand and dash the Cup aside.

 

                                                                                                       174

XXX.

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

 

On the dark waters of man’s thought still gleams
     Softly and silvernly, from night to night,
That starlike Legend, whose fair substance seems                             [3]
     Consuming in the melancholy light
     It sheddeth. Father, do I see aright?
Is it a truth or most divine of dreams?
     That He, Thy Child, walk’d once in raiment white
With mortal men, and mused by Syrian streams?
O Life that puts our noblest life to shame,
     Was it a Star, or light to lead astray?
Thought’s waves grow husht beneath that silvern flame,
     Our hopes pursue it and our doubts obey;
And whether truth or phantom, it became
     The sweetest sphere that lights the World’s black way.

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 3: That starlight Legend, though its substance seems ]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 175

XXXI.

EARTH’S ELDEST BORN.

 

But He, the only One of mortal birth
     Who raised the Veil and saw the Face behind,
While yet He wander’d footsore on the earth,
     Beheld His Father’s Eyes,—that they were kind;
     Here in the dark I grope, confused, purblind,
I have not seen the glory and the peace,
     But on the darken’d mirror of the mind
Strange glimmers fall, and shake me till they cease—
Then, wondering, dazzled, on Thy name I call,
     And, like a child, reach empty hands and moan,
And broken accents from my wild lips fall,
     And I implore Thee in this human tone;—
If such as I can follow Him at all
     Into Thy presence, ’tis by love alone.

 

                                                                                                       176

XXXII.

WHAT SPIRIT COMETH?

 

Who cometh wandering hither in my need?
     What gentle Ghost from Heaven cometh now?—
Oh, I am broken to the rod indeed—
     Father, my earthly father, is it thou?
     The stooping shape with piteous human brow,
The dear quaint gesture, and the feeble pace,
The weary-eyed, world-worn, belovëd face,
     Ev’n as they wildly faded, meet me now.
A gentle voice flows softly, saying plain:
     “From death comes light, from pain beatitude;
Chide not at loss, for out of loss comes gain;
     Chide not at grief, for ’tis the Soul’s best food—
Out of my death-chamber, out of wrong and pain,
     Cometh a life and odour. God is good.”

 

                                                                                                       177

XXXIII.

STAY, O SPIRIT!

 

Father, my earthly father, stay, O stay!
     I know thou wert a man as others be;
Sore were thy feet upon the World’s cold clay,
     And thou didst stumble oft, and on thy knee
     Knelt little; but thy gentle heart gleamed free
In cloud and shadow, giving its best cheer;
     Thou had’st an open hand, and laugh’d for glee
When happy men or creatures dumb played near;
But in thy latter years God’s scourge was sore
     Upon thee—weary were thy wrongs and dire,—
Yet blessings on thee—until all was o’er,
     Cheery thou wert beside a cheerless fire—
Till one red dawn the mark was on the door,
     And thou wert dead to all the world’s desire.

 

                                                                                                       178

XXXIV.

QUIET WATERS.

 

O Rainbow, Rainbow, on the livid height,
     Softening its ashen outlines into dream,
Dewy yet brilliant, delicately bright
     As pink wild-roses’ leaves, why dost thou gleam
So beckoningly? Whom dost thou invite
     Still higher upward on the bitter quest?
What dost thou promise to the weary sight
     In that strange region whence thou issuest?
Speakest thou of pensive runlets by whose side
Our dear ones wander sweet and gentle-eyed,
     In the soft dawn of a diviner Day?                                                [11]
Art thou a promise? Come those hues and dyes
From heavenly Meads, near which thou dost arise,
     Iris’d from Quiet Waters, far away!

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 11: In the soft dawn of some diviner Day? ]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 179

VIII.

THE CORUISKEN VISION;

Or, the Legend of the Book.

 

A phantom still, where phantoms brood,
In that soul-searching solitude,
Orm read and pondered, line by line,
The Legend of the Book Divine,—
Like to a tree above a brook,
His Spirit bent above the Book,
And shapes and faces in the stream
Went drifting by him dark with dream—
But ever as they blacken’d by
Came mirrored gleams of the blue sky . . .
Till, sooth’d to sleep by sound and sight,
Orm had a vision of the night,
Wherein, with wild eyes upward bent,
The Book’s dark Spirit came and went.

 

[Notes:
In Volume III of the 1874 Poetical Works (H. S. King) and the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan (Chatto & Windus) this section, ‘The Coruisken Vision’, is omitted from ‘The Book of Orm’.]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 181

VIII.

THE CORUISKEN VISION;

Or, the Legend of the Book.
_____

 

The shore of the Lake of Coruisk. A starry night.

 

ORM.

CALM sleeps the lonely Water of the Waste,
The gentle going of a windy day
Hath left it quiet, and the dim-eyed Moon,
Whose phantom ploughs the silent gulfs beneath,
Misteth its sable mirror, where the Stars
Float moistly, fitfully, like drops of dew.

     O Book Divine! I close thy leaves this night,
And having drunken deep a blessëd draught,
Thirst still as ere I drank. Blank is the page;
The meaning, like a melancholy echo,                                               182
Ever eluding him who seeks to hear,—
Only from leaf to leaf, from tale to tale,
One Dark Face passeth with a sense of tears.

And here I rest, not dead to such a scene
As makes the heart beat low, and fills the mind
With silence sweeter than divinest sound,—
Not dead to thee, pale haunting face in Heaven,—
Not dead to ye, too beautiful Stars,—not dead
To this mild breathing of the slumbering Earth,
My mother! I am fearfully at peace
With all the world. Still silent! save the moan
Of the black waves upon the whispering sand,
And the dull murmur of the wandering wind
Afar in the grey region of the Rain.

At peace with Death! at peace with Earth and dust!
And with that shadow-region over Earth!
But even in the pathos of this hour
I am at war with dreadful Mystery!                                                   183
The Angel of the Human heavenward wings,
And gazes on me with a thousand eyes
Insufferable, from yonder starry dome:
Thou Spirit of my Spirit, what am I ?

 

A VOICE.

The modern Orm: a shadow in the track
Of Him who walked along the thorny ways
With bloodless robe and pallid smile divine.

 

ORM.

Who spoke? It seemed a voice did echo me
With mine own thought.

 

SPIRIT OF SORROW.

                       ’Twas mine, thou creeping thing!

 

ORM.

Thine? Shadows grow upon me as I lie—
I see a figure in a priestly dress—
Of stature huger than a mortal’s. Speak!                                           184
Art thou a spirit or a man?

 

SPIRIT.

                                             I am
The Shadow of the Spirit of the Book,—
The Angel of all Evil.

 

ORM.

                                   Fly me not!
If thou be that, let me contemplate thee.
How does the white smile of the ghostly Moon
Silver thy wrinkled cheeks and solemn beard!
There is a sweetness as of solemn thoughts
In thy calm face, and in thine eyes the peace
Which passeth understanding.

 

SPIRIT.

                                                 Look again!

                                                                                                       185

ORM.

Thy thin brow shrivels to the scalp! Thy cheek
Shrinks like an adder’s skin, and leaves thine eyes
Two spots of flaming emerald! Thy hair
Melts off like snow! Thy spotted flesh curls round
The forkëd tongue that shoots from slimy lips!
Aye, now I know thee, yet I fear thee not!
Calm as a stone, I on mine elbow lean
And look at thee with such a scorn as thou,
In the remote abysms of the past,
Turned on the heel that bruised thee!

 

SPIRIT.

                                                           Yet again!

 

ORM.

O speak! Thy face grows glorious with the ray
Of some old prophecy; thy form dilates;
Around thee is a motion as of wings;
Thy lifted arm points at the Stars which dim
Bright orbs upon thee,—Heaven with all her eyes                              186
Watching her eldest born!

 

SPIRIT.

                                           Almighty God!
Father! How long, how long? . . Nay, He is dumb
Upon His throne. He answers not, but mocks me
With the mild motion of those ministries
That work His nightly law. But thou hast heard;
Thou knowest me now.

 

ORM.

                                       I know thee!

 

SPIRIT.

                                                     And thy cheek
Blanches not?

 

ORM.

                           Nay, by pride, and by despair.
I fear thee not—we are too much akin.
I would hear more of thee,—and much of those                               187
Who ate and perished.

 

SPIRIT.

                         That which men call knowing
Shall speedily be heapen on thine head;
Nor scorn me, if to-night I dwarf the truth
Into a picture for thy little eye.—
Hither, ye wandering Spirits, and attend!

 

VOICES.

Down where the moonlight lies
On beds of sable sand,
We come and we go at thy bidding!
     Never, never more
Foot hath trod this darkness,
     Never, never more
Mortal hath descended!
The secret of Time, yea the Book of the World,                     188
     Under the waters abideth;
The thin wave creeps chill thro’ its brazen leaves,
     That stir with a moaning pulsation!

 

SPIRIT.

Ye hear me, homeless voices of the Dead!
Upbuild! and be the Temple broad and high!

 

VOICES.

     Rocks from the mammoth world,
     Spars from the sifted sands,
Bones that whiten decaying,—
         With the blood of man
     These we mould together;
         Fire with slippery hands
     Clings around the columns:
Thrones for the Wise who have sought for the Book
     That under the waters abideth,
The red fire of Hell to illumine the whole,
     And the Temple is built at thy bidding!

                                                                                             189

ORM.

The air is nighted with an Edifice
That whirls on serpent columns heavenward,
Growing and growing, like a living thing
At its own will, with rustling as of wings.
Both lake and sky are hidden—all is dark!
The fabric pauses in its upward growth;
And lo! before me swings a fiery Gate,
Upon whose threshold sits a little Child,
Turning the dim leaves of a brazen Book
With fingers light as are a rose’s leaves,
And smiling on the things it sees therein.

 

SPIRIT.

Ye who have eaten and perish’d, at your thrones!

 

VOICES WITHIN THE TEMPLE.

     Out of our dust a Flower
     Hath grown with sap of blood,
And the little one plucks it freely;
     In a young bride’s hair                                                       190
         Is it brightly glowing!
     Upon dying lips
         Doth it mildly blossom!
     While upon our thrones,
         Not by hands upbuilded,
     We, the Kings of Thought,
         Sit in meditation.

 

SPIRIT.

Pass in!

 

ORM.

                 How sweetly sits the little Child,
Making a radiance round him with his smile,
So that the dark Book sparkles under him;
One sweet white blossom of the lily gleams
In the deep golden of his hair. His name?
Who is he?

 

SPIRIT.

                 Beäl. Born, but not of woman,
He ages not, but solves all mysteries
By the sweet light which, burning like a lamp,                                     191
His vestal Soul gives forth thro’ eyes divine
But comprehends not.

 

ORM.

                                       Is immortal?

 

SPIRIT.

                                                               Yea!
Because he hath not eaten of the Tree
Of Sorrow. He was sitting on Eve’s shoulder,
Babbling fine fancies with his baby-lips,
And breathing balm into her rosy ear,
When the Temptation found her. . . . Enter in!
                                                   [They enter.

 

ORM.

It is a sight to wither up the heart,
And burst the straining eyeball of the soul.—
Shadows, they sit within a shadow-realm,
Below their feet a gulf, and overhead
The fretted roof glitters with stars that light not
The air around them, tho’ self-luminous.                                           192
Up to the roofs the quivering columns writhe
Snake-like; and in the interstice of gloom
The Shadows reign, white-hair’d and hollow-eyed,
Each crowned and sceptred, each with gaze bent inward,
So that they look not on the frozen woe
Of one another’s faces, nor perceive
All is so black around about their seats.
What shapes are these?

 

SPIRIT.

                                   The Kings of Thought.

 

ORM.

                                                             The Kings
Of Thought . . . and I conceive them not!

 

SPIRIT.

                                                             They are,
And are not, what they seem; for Thought is twofold:
The flower that bends above its shape in water,                                193
Conception and its shadow. These are false,
Yet are they all projected by the truth;
Without the truth they are not.

 

ORM.

                                                   Kings of Thought?
Things that have eaten the fruit and perished?
These surely should be those that know,—can speak
Of this unrest which flames my Spirit on!

 

SPIRIT.

These are their shades; their spirits dwell afar,
Drinking the dew of a serener air.
In aspiration and in glorious dream,
They learnt too well that all is vanity.

 

ORM.

Thought is immortal—is a wingëd thing!
A homeless ecstasy that cannot die!
Or be confined, or wholly pass away!

                                                                                                       194

SPIRIT.

Thought, tho’ immortal, if it beat the air
With insolent wing, must fail, as these have done.
He made His earth and heavens, His clear air,
His elements, His seasons, all things fair
Or terrible, all wondrous elements
That flash and fade around man’s prison-house,
To be a testimony unto Him;
Many have failed and perished at that point
Where testimony so amazes mind,
That it obscures the glory testified.

 

ORM.

What shape is that?—he with the sombre robe
Hideously blazonëd?

 

SPIRIT.

                                     The son of Brahm,
Menu, a mighty mortal of the East,
Who grew so wise they took him for a god,
And fixed him just beneath their Trinity.

                                                                                                       195

ORM.

He, further down the gloom, with glorious face
Gleaming like daybreak, snakes around his neck,
And stars amid his hair?

 

SPIRIT.

                                         ’Tis Orpheus:
Who, with deep-gleaming eyes and singing lips,
From mystic circle unto circle swept
That lessen inward to the Soul of All,
And, having swept each circle’s course divine,
Naming the wondrous habitants therein,
Whirl’d, like a moth around an Altar Lamp,
A moment round that inmost Flame of All,
Then fluttering fell to Lesbos, blind with light.
Close to his side the long-hair’d Samian sits,
First Shepherd of the gentle and the wise,
Drinking sad day from the still lustrous gaze
Of his surpassing neighbour. . . . And that other,
He with the subtle smile and thin white hair,
Holding the goblet up to lips of ice,                                                    196
Is Socrates, a Greek of homelier growth;
Who nearer earth tasted forbidden fruit,
And ended meekly with a hemlock cup:
Yet, tasting thus the bitterness of wisdom,
Smiled gloriously, and so passed up to God,
Wise in his dying. At his feet behold,
With small eyes glimmering thro’ hair unkempt,
Diogenes, who stole the wondrous fruit,
And munched it in the mud, and scowled on all
Because it tasted sourly. He who towers
Amid a mystic circle of the Wise,
Who turn unto him great eyes dim with dream,—
He with the beautiful great brow, and hair
Where gleams of gold still linger in the grey—
Plato—of all who ever lived and died,
The one who loved the quest for its own sake,
Because it led him into paths so fair;
Married his days and nights to thought, and left
Broods of angelic dreams attesting all
That by the unassisted mind of man                                                   197
Could be conceived of immortality;
Saw Truth in open daylight face to face,
And would have loved and understood her too,
Had he not thought Knowledge so beautiful.

 

ORM.

These are but heathen prophets!

 

SPIRIT.

                                                     Even so—
Pass on. Mark yonder Figure standing crowned,
A sword upon his thigh, and near his breast
A harp of burning gold. His dexter hand
Clutches the sword, and the impetuous blood
Seems black’ning to the nails; but his blue eyes
Look downward on a phantom in the gulf—
A pale Youth swinging by the hair of gold
To the black branches of a forest tree.

                                                                                                       198

ORM.

’Tis the lost King of Israël!

 

SPIRIT.

                                         Speak to him!
Thy voice will stir him, tho’ he sees thee not.

 

ORM.

Speak, Shade of Israël! . . .
                                       Across his face
There flits a gleam like starlight upon snow:
He stirs, and flings his arms around his harp.

 

SPIRIT OF DAVID.

I was a burning and a shining Light,
Yet I projected darkness wheresoe’er
I wandered crown’d. I slew, and slaying prayed.
Like to a storm of music I swept on,
Sounding the trumpet of an angry Lord;
But lastly, in the darkness knelt I down,
And wept above my gold-haired Absalom,                                       199
And touched my harp, and sighing fell to sleep,
With downward drooping head and ruinous hair,
And fingers feeling blindly for the sword;
But swooning, smote the harp-strings unaware,
And like a strain of peaceful sound, my Soul
Slipt thro’ my fingers out upon the strings,
There linger’d faintly many nights and days,
And in sad cadence glided up to God.

 

ORM.

Enough! I sicken when I gaze upon him—
He darken’d that he sought, the Light Divine.
No further. Yonder in their dark array
I see the black-brow’d builders of the Law;
At whose dark footstools, moveless in the gloom,
The pallid Prophets crouch with fiery eyes.

 

A VOICE.

God spake a Word that pass’d along like wind,
Through the abysses and the gulfs of Time,—
A voice of lamentation mix’d with hope,                                            200
And a deep under-hum of mystery:
One prophet darkening as a thunder-cloud,
Utter’d this promise in a lightning flash!
Another murmur’d it to his own heart,
Till the wild thing grew mild and musical!
Age after age, in crime and loss and woe,
This Word hath echoed like a wondrous voice,
Coming on peaceful men among their flocks,
Startling the warrior, while, in battle-field,
He, listening, looks upon his bloody hands!

 

VOICES.

     Out of our dust a Flower
     Hath grown with sap of blood,
And the little one plucks it freely!
     Vainly the mind of man
         Sits in meditation,
     Vainly the mighty seek,
         Thought is weak to fathom:
The Secret of Time, yea the Book of the World,                     201
     Under the waters abideth,
We search’d for the same from birth to the grave,
     And wearily westering perished!

 

ORM.

O see! before us sits the radiant Child
We passed upon the threshold. Still he smiles,
Turning the dim leaves of the brazen Book,
And shining on the things he sees therein.

 

SPIRIT.

Peep over his shoulder. See to what the small
White hand is pointing.

 

ORM.

                                       “Verily I say,
Except a man be born again, he shall not
Enter the kingdom of God!”
                                                
How quietly                                  202
The Little One looks in my face and smiles,
And while I gaze upon him, on my Soul
Truths drop like flakes of snow, melting away
Ere thought can seize them. Speak, O Radiant One!

 

SPIRIT.

He only clasps his little hands and smiles;
Bend to him thus: yea, he who seeks to find
Wisdom in little ones must stoop to them.
Is silent! but he shuts the brazen Book,
And puts his rosy arms around my neck.

 

VOICES.

         The smile of a little Child
         Disturbs us where we sit
On our thrones—the Wise and the Mighty!
     Never heretofore
         Have our Thrones been shaken,
     Never heretofore
         Did we know and wonder!
We are, and we are not; we know, and we know not;              203
     We come and we go at thy bidding;
We have followed each other from birth to the grave,
     And wearily westering perish’d.
             [The Child kisses Satan. The Temple vanishes.

 

ORM.

. . . Gone! melted like a vapour! and again
The cold white starlight on the lonely Mere!
A dream; yet still the radiant Infant’s kiss
Burns on thy forehead as a seal of fire!
Almighty God! Master!

 

SPIRIT.

                                       What dost thou see?

 

ORM.

The gathering clouds above assume strange shapes,
And struggle onward to the sunken sun,
Piloted by a swift and audible wind;
The waters glass themselves below, and mirror
The phantasm as it passes; and the moon
Burns inward thro’ blue ether, whirling round,                                   204
Rolling her round white eye on all, and casting
Wild shafts of silver on the lake. Black forms,
Gigantic up above, human below,
Swim on with waving arms and flashing faces,
Up, up, as if they climb a hill and pass;
Lo, one on horseback pointeth with his sword
And urgeth on. Men, women, children follow:
The light illumes the golden hair of a child
Held in its mother’s arms; and now, O God!
Hide me!

 

SPIRIT.

                   Behold!

 

ORM.

                                     The shadow of a Cross
Looms huge and forkëd in the lake: ’tis borne
By One with stooping shoulders, waving hair;
Behind Him followeth a motley crowd;
He pauseth underneath His load—He halts—
His face is silvered by the plunging moon—                                       205
Almighty Lord, it is the Nazarene!
O God! two silent Faces, each the Christ’s,
One from the heaven, one from the black lake,
Gaze on me, and the wild Moon gleams on both!

 

SPIRIT.

Look up, look up!

 

ORM.

                                 Oh, I am blind!

 

SPIRIT.

                                                         Thou fearest
To look upon the thing thou hast denied.

 

ORM.

Is it a fable?

 

SPIRIT.

                       Yea;—if men and women,
And all they think, and all they feel and see,
Are fables. ’Twas the shadow of thy thought                                      206
Crossing the luminous silence of His stars,
Darkening His air, blanching His fiery moon,
Using His waters for a mirror. Rise!
The thing hath faded from His elements
Into the subtle chambers of thy brain,
Where all live mingled. Let it work therein!
Yonder the dim Day dawns—the tremulous feet
Of sad ghosts fade upon the brightening hills.
Farewell! and when thou prayest, pray for me!
Pray for the outcast Spirit! Pray for all
Strong Spirits that are outcast!
                       [Spirit vanishes. The day breaks.

 

ORM.

                                               Father! God!
Forgive thy child! behold him on his knee!
Evil is evil, Father, Good is Good,
Darkness is dreadful, and the Light divine!

_____

 

The Book of Orm continued

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