Monday, August 6, 2012

The Meaning of Man

 The Meaning of Man
By Clifford Bax  (b. 1886-1962)
Take courage; for the race of man is divine.
The Golden Verses.

DEAR and fair as Earth may be
  Not from out her womb are we,—
Like an elder sister only, like a foster-mother, she,
For we come of heavenly lineage, of a pure undying race,
  We who took the poppied potion of our life, and quaffing deep        5
  Move enchanted now forever in the shadow world of sleep,
In the vast and lovely vision that is wrought of time and space.
  Overhead the sun and moon
    Shining at the gates of birth
  Give to each a common boon,—       10
    All the joy of earth;
  Mountains lit with moving light,
    Forest, cavern, cloud and river,
  Ebb and flow of day and night
    Around the world forever.       15
These and all the works of man may he who will behold,
Mighty shapes of bygone beauty, songs of beaten gold,
Starlike thoughts that once, in ages gone, were found by seër-sages,
All the throng’d and murmuring Past, the life men loved of old.
Yet sometimes at the birth of night when hours of heat and splendour       20
  Melt away in darkness, and the flaming sun has set
Across the brooding soul will sweep, like music sad and tender,
  Sudden waves of almost passionate regret,
For then the hills and meadowlands, the trees and flowerful grasses,
  All the world of wonder that our eyes have gazed upon,       25
Seems remote and mournful, as a rainbow when it passes
  Leaves the heart lamenting for the beauty come and gone,
And in the deep that is the soul there surges up a cry
‘Whence are all the starry legions traversing the sky?
  Whence the olden planets and the sun and moon and earth?       30
Out of what came all of these and out of what came I?’
And far away within the same unfathomable deep
  Comes an answer rolling ‘Earth and moon and sun,
All that is, that has been, or that ever time shall reap,
  Is but moving home again, with mighty labours done,       35
  The Many to the Everlasting One.’
    And this is the meaning of man,
    The task of the soul,
  The labour of worlds, and the plan
    That is set for the whole,       40
  For the spark of the spirit imprisoned within it,
    In all things one and the same,
  Aeon by aeon and minute by minute,
    Is longing to leap into flame,
To shatter the limits of life and be lost in a glory intense and profound       45
As the soul with a cry goes out into music and seeks to be one with the sound.
    For as those that are sunken deep
  In the green dim ocean of sleep,
In a thousand shapes for a thousand ages the one great Spirit is bound.
  The air we inhale and the sea,       50
    The warm brown earth and the sun,
    Came forth at the Word of the One
  From the same First Mother as we,
  And now, as of old when the world began
  The stars of the night are the kindred of man,       55
  For all things move to a single goal,
  The giant sun or the thinking soul.
  Ah what though the Tree whose rise and fall
  Of sap is fed from the Spirit of All,
  With suns for blossoms and planets for leaves,       60
  Be vaster yet than the mind conceives?
  Earth is a leaf on the boundless Tree,
  And the unborn soul of the earth are we.
O man is a hungering exiled people, a host in an unknown land,
  A wandering mass in the vast with only a black horizon to face,       65
Yet still, though we toil for a time in the heat over measureless deserts of sand
  The longing for beauty that shines in the soul is the guiding-star of the race.
    It is this that alone may redeem
      A world ignoble with strife,
    This only bring all that we dream       70
      From the shattered chaos of life.
And this that forever shall spur us and lead us from peak unto peak on the way
Till body and spirit be welded in one and the long Night fall on the Day,
And all the sonorous music of time, the hills and the woods and the wind and the sea,
The one great song of the whole creation, of all that is and that yet shall be,       75
Chanted aloud as a paean of joy by the Being whose home is the vast
Shall tremble away in silence, and all be gone at the last,
Save only afar in the Heart of the Singer of whom it was chanted and heard
  Remembrance left of the music as a sunset-fire in the west,
Remembrance left of the mighty Enchanted Palace that rose at His Word,       80
  This, and a joy everlasting, an immense inviolate rest.

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