George Eliot

(22 November 1819 - 22 December 1880 / Warwickshire, England)

The Choir Invisible


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

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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  • Martin Reisberg (5/16/2009 7:18:00 AM)

    I am challenged by this poem.
    The poet challenges our sense of who do she think (s) he BE!

    I challenge all who are wishing to sink her/his teeth into this! !


    Back when I sat in Miss O'Connor's English class, she presented SILAS MARNER.

    I wouldn't be bothered in completing it. It took too long.


    Not until 40 or so years later did I read the novel for the first time. After bathing in the after wash of MIDDLEMARCH, I was swimming in several other ELIOT novels. They still flicker in my memory Adam Bede, et al. Not an easy writer, she, but methinks all too human, wit h all herPERFECTly HUMAN imperfections.

    So i am putting in my oar to seek another out their in POEM HUNTER land who may be washed ashore on this lone island in the pacific and invisible climes of creativity land.
    A poet of note I'm note. But a seeker of TB&G*, I am


    * TRUTH
    BEAUTY
    * GOODNESS
    COME JOIN ME! ! ! ! ! ! ! (Report) Reply

Read all 2 comments »

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