Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HOLY EARTH, by JOHN HALL WHEELOCK

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THE HOLY EARTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the immense cathedral of the holy earth
Last Line: Upon her myriad altars flames the one sacred fire.
Subject(s): Churches; Earth; God; Cathedrals; World

In the immense cathedral of the holy earth,
Whose arches are the heavens and the great vault above
Groined with its myriad stars -- what miracles of birth,
What sacraments of death, what rituals of love!

Her nave is the wide world and the whole length of it,
One flame on all her altars kindles her many fires;
Wherever the clear tapers of trembling life are lit
Resound for joy the old indomitable choirs.

The holy church of earth with clamorous worshippers
Is crowded and fierce hungers, faithful every one
To the one faith; that stern and simple faith of hers
Contents the heart that asks no pity, giving none.

Each on the other feeds, and all on each are fed,
And each for all is offered -- a living offering, where
In agony and triumph the ancient feast is spread,
Life's sacramental supper, that all her sons may share.

They mingle with one another, blend -- mingle -- merge, and flow
Body into wild body, in rapture endlessly
Weaving, with intricate motions of being to and fro,
The pattern of all Being, one mighty harmony.

One Body of all bodies, woven and interwrought --
One Self in many selves, through their communion
In love and death, made perfect; wherein each self is nought
Save as it serve the many, mysteriously made One.

And all are glad for life's sake, and all have found it good
From the beginning; all, through many and warring ways,
In savage vigor of life and wanton hardihood
Live out, like a brave song, the passion of their days.

With music woven of lust and music woven of pain,
Chapel and aisle and choir, the great cathedral rings --
One voice in all her voices chaunting the old disdain
Of pity, the clean hunger of all primal things.

From the trembling of Arcturus even to the tiny nest
Of the grey mouse the glories of her vast frame extend:
The span of her great arches stretching from east to west
Is endless -- the immense reaches are without end.
* * * * * * *

Evening closes: the light from heaven's high window falls
Vaguer and softer now; in vain the twilight pleads
With stubborn night, his shadow looms on the massive walls --
Darkness. The immemorial ritual proceeds.

The spider in her quivering web watches and waits;
The moth flutters entangled, in agony of fear
He beats amid the toils that bind him; she hesitates
Along the trembling wires -- she pauses -- she draws near.

She weaves her delicate bondage around him; in the net
As in a shroud he labors -- but, labor as he will,
The cunning threads hold fast; her drowsy mouth is set
Against the body that shivers softly, and is still.

And through the leafy dark the owl with noiseless flight
Moves, peering craftily among the tangled trees
And thickets of the wood all slumbrous in the night --
The fledgling's bitter cry comes sharp upon the breeze.

With dreadful ceremony all things together move
To the one end: shrill voices in triumph all around
Prolong deliriously their monotone of love --
Arches and aisles are heavy with incense and dim sound.

Hush -- the whole world is kneeling! Murmurous is the air --
The Host is lifted up. Upon the altar lies
The sacramental Body. The wind breathes like a prayer --
Solemnly is renewed the eternal sacrifice.

With mingled moan and might of warring wills made one
The vast cathedral shudders. From chancel, nave and choir
Sounds the fierce hymn to life: her holy will be done!
Upon her myriad altars flames the one sacred fire.

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