Sidney Lanier (1842-1881 / Macon / Georgia)
O Age that half believ'st thou half believ'st,
Half doubt'st the substance of thine own half doubt,
And, half perceiving that thou half perceiv'st,
Stand'st at thy temple door, heart in, head out!
Lo! while thy heart's within, helping the choir,
Without, thine eyes range up and down the time,
Blinking at o'er-bright science, smit with desire
To see and not to see. Hence, crime on crime.
Yea, if the Christ (called thine) now paced yon street,
Thy halfness hot with His rebuke would swell;
Legions of scribes would rise and run and beat
His fair intolerable Wholeness twice to hell.
`Nay' (so, dear Heart, thou whisperest in my soul),
`'Tis a half time, yet Time will make it whole.'
Now at thy soft recalling voice I rise
Where thought is lord o'er Time's complete estate,
Like as a dove from out the gray sedge flies
To tree-tops green where cooes his heavenly mate.
From these clear coverts high and cool I see
How every time with every time is knit,
And each to all is mortised cunningly,
And none is sole or whole, yet all are fit.
Thus, if this Age but as a comma show
'Twixt weightier clauses of large-worded years,
My calmer soul scorns not the mark: I know
This crooked point Time's complex sentence clears.
Yet more I learn while, Friend! I sit by thee:
Who sees all time, sees all eternity.
If I do ask, How God can dumbness keep
While Sin creeps grinning through His house of Time,
Stabbing His saintliest children in their sleep,
And staining holy walls with clots of crime? --
Or, How may He whose wish but names a fact
Refuse what miser's-scanting of supply
Would richly glut each void where man hath lacked
Of grace or bread? -- or, How may Power deny
Wholeness to th' almost-folk that hurt our hope --
These heart-break Hamlets who so barely fail
In life or art that but a hair's more scope
Had set them fair on heights they ne'er may scale? --
Somehow by thee, dear Love, I win content:
Thy Perfect stops th' Imperfect's argument.
By the more height of thy sweet stature grown,
Twice-eyed with thy gray vision set in mine,
I ken far lands to wifeless men unknown,
I compass stars for one-sexed eyes too fine.
No text on sea-horizons cloudily writ,
No maxim vaguely starred in fields or skies,
But this wise thou-in-me deciphers it:
Oh, thou'rt the Height of heights, the Eye of eyes.
Not hardest Fortune's most unbounded stress
Can blind my soul nor hurl it from on high,
Possessing thee, the self of loftiness,
And very light that Light discovers by.
Howe'er thou turn'st, wrong Earth! still Love's in sight:
For we are taller than the breadth of night.
Comments about this poem (Acknowledgment. by Sidney Lanier )
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