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HOW I CONSULTED THE ORACLE
OF THE GOLDFISHES
What know we of the world immense
Of its hushed habitants as they
It lies about us, yet as far
Are these Night's dusky birds ? Are these Phantasmas of the silences
Outer or inner ? — rude heirlooms
With fruitage new, none else shall share: From grovellers in the cavern-glooms, Sated with wavering in the Void, Who in unhuman Nature saw
It backward climbs, so best employed, Misshapen foes with tusk and claw, And, where no proof is nor can be, And with those night-fears brute and blind Seeks refuge with Analogy; Peopled the chaos of their mind,
Truth's soft half-sister, she may tell Which, in ungovernable hours,
Where lurks, seld-sought, the other's well Still make their bestial lair in ours ? With metaphysic midges sore,
My Thought seeks comfort at her door, Were they, or were they not? Yes; And, at her feet a suppliant cast, no;
Evokes a spectre of the past. Uncalled they come, unbid they go,
Not such as shook the knees of Saul, And leave us fumbling in a doubt
But winsome, golden-gay withal, – Whether within us or without
Two fishes in a globe of glass,
and waver, and re-pass, That witches us to hear and see
And lighten that way, and then this, As in a twi-life wbat it will,
Silent as meditation is.
With a half-humorous smile I see
A mocking image of my mind.
Up from the darkening deeps of time: Is it illusion? Dream-stuff? Show Help me to tame these wild day-mares Made of the wish to have it so ?
That sudden on me unawares. 'T were something, even though this were Fish, do your duty, as did they all:
Of the Black Island far away
In life's safe places,
Your gold renews my golden days,
'T is more than sixty years ago By our rude sires a goddess made.
Since first I watched your to-and-fro; Could longing, though its heart broke, give Two generations come and gone Trances in which we chiefly live ?
From silence to oblivion, Moments that darken all beside,
With all their noisy strife and stress
Lulled in the grave's forgivingness,
I watched you then a curious boy,
Who in your beauty found fuli joy,
And, by no problem-debts distrest,
Sate at life's board a welcome guest.
No hint of dispossession drew
On any map my simplesse knew; Swings boldly off in hope to blow
O golden age, not yet dethroned! Across some tree of knowledge, fair What made me happy, that I owned;
far as you
You were my wonders, you my Lars,
to know that I was young.
Diminished creature, I no more Find Fairyland beside my door, But for each moment's pleasure pay With the quart d'heure of Rabelais ! I watch you in your crystal sphere, And wonder if you see and hear Those shapes and sounds that stir the wide Conjecture of the world outside; In your pent lives, as we in ours, Have you surmises dim of powers, Of presences obscurely shown, Of lives a riddle to your own, Just on the senses' outer verge, Where sense-nerves into soul-nerves merge, Where we conspire our own deceit Confederate in deft Fancy's feat, And the fooled brain befools the eyes With pageants woven of its own lies ? But are they lies? Why more than those Phantoms that startle your repose, Half seen, half heard, then flit away, And leave you your prose-bounded day? The things ye see as shadows I Know to be substance; tell me why My visions, like those haunting you, May not be as substantial too. Alas, who ever answer heard From fish, and dream-fish too? Absurd ! Your consciousness I half divine, But you are wholly deaf to mine. Go, I dismiss you; ye have done All that ye could; our silk is spun: Dive back into the deep of dreams, Where what is real is what seems ! Yet I shall fancy till my grave Your lives to mine a lesson gave; If lesson none, an image, then, Impeaching self-conceit in men Who put their confidence alone In wbat they call the Seen and Known. How seen ? How known ? As through Our wavering apparitions pass Perplexingly, then subtly wrought To some quite other thing by thought. Here shall my resolution be: The shadow of the mystery Is haply wholesomer for eyes That cheat us to be overwise, And I am happy in my right To love God's darkness as His light.
Thy drooping symbol to the flagstaff TURNER'S OLD TÉMÉRAIRE
Thy rudder soothes the tide to lazy rings, UNDER A FIGURE SYMBOLIZING THE Thy thunders now but birthdays greet, CHURCH
Thy planks forget the martyrs' feet,
Thy masts what challenges the sea-wind THOU wast the fairest of all man-made
brings. things; The breath of heaven bore up thy cloudy
mere hospital, where human
wrecks, And, patient in their triple rank,
Like winter-flies, crawl those renowned The thunders crouched about thy flank,
decks, Their black lips silent with the doom of Ne'er trodden save by captive foes, kings.
And wonted sternly to impose
God's will and thine on bowed imperial The storm-wind loved to rock him in thy
necks ! pines, And swell thy vans with breath of great Shall nevermore, engendered of thy fame, designs;
A new sea-eagle beir thy conqueror name, Long-wildered pilgrims of the main
And with commissioned talons wrench By thee relaid their course again,
From thy supplanter's grimy clench Whose prow was guided by celestial signs. His sheath of steel, his wings of smoke
and flame ? How didst thou trample on tumultuous seas,
This shall the pleased eyes of our children Or, like some basking sea-beast stretched
see; at ease,
For this the stars of God long even as Let the bull-fronted surges glide
we; Caressingly along thy side,
Earth listens for his wings; the Fates Like glad hounds leaping by the hunts- Expectant lean; Faith cross-propt waits, man's knees !
And the tired waves of Thought's insur
ST. MICHAEL THE WEIGHER Through plank and spar, from man to man,
Stood the tall Archangel weighing Welding thee to a thunderbolt of God. All man's dreaming, doing, saying,
All the failure and the pain, Now a black demon, belching fire and All the triumph and the gain, steam,
In the unimagined years, Dragsthee away, a pale, dismantled Full of hopes, more full of tears, dream,
Since old Adam's hopeless eyes And all thy desecrated bulk
Backward searched for Paradise,
And, instead, the flame-blade saw
With his fire-gold, flickering hair,
And the scales were in his hand: Shot-shattered to have met thy doom
Mighty were they, and full well Where thy last lightnings cheered the They could poise both heaven and hell gloom,
Angel,” asked I humbly then, Than here be safe in dangerless despair. • Weighest thou the souls of men ?
Ah, but I know, for never April's shine, Nor passion gust of rain, nor all her
flowers Scattered in haste, were seen so sudden
fine As she in various mood, on whom the
powers Of happiest stars in fair conjunction
smiled To bless the birth of April's darling
More than when first I singled thee,
This only prayer is mine,