ASTRAY IN HER PATHS.1

COPENHAGEN, January, ’97.

I FEEL thee shudder, clinging to my arm,

Before the battlements of the salt sea,

Black billows tipped with phosphorescent light,

Towering from where we stand to yonder shore

That is no earthly shore, but guards the coast

Of that which is from that which is to be;

Wherefore it kindles no evasive fire

Nor blazes through the night, but lies forgotten

Gray in the twilight; never a star is out {119A}

To light the broad horizon; only here

Behind us cluster lamps, and busy sounds

Of men proclaim a city; but to us

They are not here; for we, because we love,

Are not of earth, but, as the immortals, stand

With eyes immutable; our souls are fed

On a strange new nepenthe from the cup

Of the vast firmament. Nor do we dream,

Nor think we aught of the transient world,

But are absorbed in our own deity:

And our clear eyes reflect — (who dares to gaze

Shall see an die!) — the changeless empyrean

Eternity, the concentrated void

Of space, for being the centre of all things,

Time is to us the Now, and Space the Here;

From us all Matter radiates, is a part

Of our own thoughts and souls; because we love.

Thou shudderest, clinging to me; though the night

Jewels her empire with the frosty crown

Of thousand-twinkling stars, whose hoary crests

Burn where light touches them, with diamond points

Of infinite far fire, save where the sea

Is ebony with sleep, and though the wind

Pierces the marrow, since it is the word

Of the Almighty, and cuts through the air

That may not stay its fury, with a cold

Nipping and chill, it is not in the wind;

Nor though the thunder broke, or flashed the fire

From all the circle of eternity,

Were that the reason; for thou shudderest

To hear the Voice of Love; it is no voice

That men may hear, but an intensest rich

Silence, that silence when man waits to hear

Some faint vibration in the smitten air,

And, if he hear not, die; but we who love

Are beyond death, and therefore may commune

In that still tongue; it is the only speech

And song of stars and sun; nor is it marred

By one dissentient tremor of the air

That girds the earth, but in lone aether spreads {119B}

Its song. But now I turn to thee, whose eyes

Blaze on me with such look as flesh and blood

May never see and live; for so it burns

Into the innest being of the spirit

And stains its vital essence with a brand

Of fire that shall not change; and shuddering I

Gaze back, spirit to spirit, with the like

Insatiable desire, that never quenched,

Nor lessened by sublime satiety,

But rather crescent, hotter with the flame

Of its own burning, that consumes it not,

Because it is the pure white flame of God.

I shudder, holding thee to me; thy gaze

Is still on me; a thousand years have passed,

And yet a thousand thousand; years they are

As men count years, and yet we stand and gaze

With touching hands and lips immutable

As mortals stand a moment; ...

The universe is One: One Soul, One Spirit,

One Flame, One infinite God, One infinite Love.

 

1. This satirical title is from Proverbs vii. 25. A poet’s nature is to refine to purest gold even the sordidest of dross.

 

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