THOU stand'st complete in every part,
An individual of thy kind;
But whence thou cam'st and what thou art,
Didst ever ask thee of thy mind?
Thou claim'st a portion of God's earth;
Thou say'st to all men, "This is I;"
Thou hast a date to mark thy birth,
And other date when thou shalt die.
Thy years are in the planets' years;
A space in all that mighty span,
A little space of smiles and tears,
Is writ in shining letters—"Man."
Thou hear'st the mighty ocean roll,
Thou seest death on every hand;
There loom strange phantoms in thy soul,
And boundless heavens arch the land.
Thy feet are on the sand and clay,
Which once had other growths than these,
And in the great world's yesterday,
Heard murmurs of the tropic seas.
Life out of death, death out of life,
In endless cycles rolling on,
And fire-gleams flashing from the strife
Of what will come and what has gone.
A perfect whole, a perfect plan,
Ay, doubtless, in the perfect mind,
An onward march since time began,
With yet no laggart left behind.
All blended in a wondrous chain,
Each link the fittest for its place;
The stronger made to bear the strain,
The weaker formed to give it grace.
But what art thou and what am I?
What place is ours in all this scheme?
What is it to be born and die?
Are we but phases in a dream,
That earth or some prime mother dreams,
Folded away in crimson skies?
Or are we dazzled with the beams
Of light too strong for new-born eyes?
Certes, we are not very much;
We cannot cause ourselves to be;
Not even the limbs by which we touch
Are really owned by thee and me.
But they were fashioned years ago,
Ay, centuries; since earth's natal morn,
The wondering ages saw them grow,
Till our time came and we were born.
And we are present, future, past—
Shall live again, have lived before,
Like billows on the beaches cast
Of tides that flow for evermore.
And yet thou sayest, "This is I;
I am marked off from all my kind;
I look not to the by-and-by;
I care not for what lies behind."
That may be so; but to mine eyes
A being of wondrous make thou art—
The point at which infinities
Converge, touch, and for ever part.
Thou canst not unmake what has been,
Nor hold back that which is to come;
We dwell upon the waste between
In the small "now" which is our home.
"Though this be so," thou answerest, "still
I feel and know myself to be:
Thy creed would make the perfect will
In God's sight like a stone or tree."
Ah no! for stone and tree are one,
And perfect will bears different fruit;
The will is grander than the sun,
The body brother to the brute.
But in the ages thou shalt be
A link from unknown to unknown,
A bridge across a darkling sea,
A light on the world's pathway thrown
Ay, such is man—a moan in sleep;
A passing dream; he thinks and is,
And then falls back into the deep
Where other deeps call unto this.
But in that thinking, in that pause,
That dream which did so little yield,
There met a universe of laws,
And branched out into wider field.
We live not for ourselves—ah no!
We do not live; man lives in us.
The race dwells in us; even so
The race will live, though we pass thus.
The forces that have fashioned thee
Have rolled through space since time began—
Have ranged the heavens, the earth, the sea,
And in God's time have made thee man.
And so to further goal they move,
When thou hast passed from mortal sight;
To fashion beings that will prove
More wondrous still, more full of light.
We are the foam-crest on the wave,
Lit for a moment by the sun;
A moment thus we toss and rave,
Then fall back ere our day is done.
Thou then art twain—the force that builds
The broad foundations of the race,
And separate light from God that gilds
The soul with individual grace.
God looks at both: the one displays
The laws that work His purpose still;
The other thine own spirit sways,
And here God asks the perfect will.
I would not have thee think the less
Of this small part which is man's soul,
Nor miss the exceeding blessedness
Of knowing thyself a
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