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HOW I CONSULTED THE ORACLE

OF THE GOLDFISHES

What know we of the world immense
Beyond the narrow ring of sense ?
What should we know, who lounge about
The house we dwell in, nor find out,
Masked by a wall, the secret cell
Where the soul's priests in hiding dwell ?
The winding stair that steals aloof
To chapel-mysteries 'neath the roof ?

Of its hushed habitants as they
Pass us unchallenged, night and day.
Never could mortal ear nor eye
By sound or sign suspect them nigh,
Yet why may not some subtler sense
Than those poor two give evidence ?
Transfuse the ferment of their being
Into our own, past hearing, seeing,
As men, if once attempered so,
Far off each other's thought can know?
As horses with an instant thrill
Measure their rider's strength of will ?
Comes not to all some glimpse that brings
Strange sense of sense-escaping things ?
Wraiths some transfigured nerve divines ?
Approaches, premonitions, signs,
Voices of Ariel that die out
In the dim No Man's Land of Doubt?

It lies about us, yet as far
From sense sequestered as a star
New launched its wake of fire to trace
In secrecies of unprobed space,
Whose beacon's lightning-pinioned spears
Might earthward haste a thousand years
Nor reach it. So remote seems this
World undiscovered, yet it is
A neighbor near and dumb as death,
So near, we seem to feel the breath

Are these Night's dusky birds ? Are these Phantasmas of the silences

a

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,
The spell of this illusion be

That
pass,

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.
And hath such wonder-working skill

With a half-humorous smile I see
That what we deemed most solid-wrought In this their aimless industry,
Turns a mere figment of our thought, These errands nowhere and returns
Which when we grasp at in despair Grave as a pair of funeral urns,
Our fingers find vain semblance there, This ever-seek and never-find,
For Psyche seeks a corner-stone

A mocking image of my mind.
Firmer than aught to matter known. But not for this I bade you climb

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
So the poor prisoner, on his wall

In life's safe places,
Long gazing, from the chance designs From all that now I see or do.
Of crack, mould, weather-stain, refines You come, embodied flames, as when
New and new pictures without cease, I knew you first, nor yet knew men;
Landscape, or saint, or altar-piece:

Your gold renews my golden days,
But these are Fancy's common brood Your splendor all my loss repays.
Hatched in the nest of solitude;
This is Dame Wish's hourly trade,

'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
Tearfully radiant as a bride ?

Lulled in the grave's forgivingness,
Beckonings of bright escape, of wings While you unquenchably survive
Purchased with loss of baser things ? Immortal, almost more alive.
Blithe truancies from all control

I watched you then a curious boy,
Of Hylë, outings of the soul ?

Who in your beauty found fuli joy,

And, by no problem-debts distrest,
The worm, by trustful instinct led,

Sate at life's board a welcome guest.
Draws from its womb a slender thread, You were my sister's pets, not mine;
And drops, confiding that the breeze But Property's dividing line
Will waft it to unpastured trees:

No hint of dispossession drew
So the brain spins itself, and so

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

a

You were my wonders, you my Lars,
In darkling days my sun and stars,
And over you entranced I bung,
Too young

to know that I was young.
Gazing with still unsated bliss,
My fancies took some shape like this:
“ I have my world, and so have you,
A tiny universe for two,
A bubble by the artist blown,
Scarcely more fragile than our own,
Where you have all a whale could wish,
Happy as Eden's primal fish.
Manna is dropt you thrice a day
From some kind heaven not far away,
And still you snatch its softening crumbs,
Nor, more than we, think whence it comes.
No toil seems yours but to explore
Your cloistered realm from shore to shore;
Sometimes you trace its limits round,
Sonietimes its limpid depths you sound,
Or hover motionless midway,
Like gold-red clouds at set of day;
Erelong you whirl with sudden whim
Off to your globe's most distant rim,
Where, greatened by the watery lens,
Methinks no dragon of the fens
Flashed huger scales against the sky,
Roused by Sir Bevis or Sir Guy,
And the one eye that meets my view,
Lidless and strangely largening, too,
Like that of conscience in the dark,
Seems to make me its single mark.
What a benignant lot is yours
That have an own All-out-of-doors,
No words to spell, no sums to do,
No Nepos and no parlyvoo !
How happy you without a thought
Of such cross things as Must and Ought,
I too the happiest of boys
To see and share your golden joys !
So thought the child, in simpler words,
Of you his finny flocks and herds;
Now, an old man, I bid you rise
To the fine sight behind the eyes,
And, lo, you float and flash again
In the dark cistern of my brain.
But o'er your visioned flames I brood
With other mien, in other mood;
You are no longer there to please,
But to stir argument, and tease
My thought with all the ghostly shapes
From which no moody man escapes.

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.

your glass

wings,

Thy drooping symbol to the flagstaff TURNER'S OLD TÉMÉRAIRE

clings,

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

Thou a

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

gent sea.
Heroic feet, with fire of genius shod,
In battle's ecstasy thy deck have trod,
While from their touch a fulgor ran

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,
Must landlocked lie, a helpless hulk,

And, instead, the flame-blade saw
To gather weeds in the regardless stream. Of inexorable Law.
Woe 's me, from Ocean's sky-horizoned Waking, I beheld him there,
air

With his fire-gold, flickering hair,
To this! Better, the flame-cross still In his blinding armor stand,
aflare,

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 ?

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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

child.

More than when first I singled thee,

This only prayer is mine,

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