Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NATURE, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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NATURE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Seas, mountains, rivers, hills, forests and plains
Last Line: Rock us eternally under the infinite sky.
Subject(s): Nature


Seas, mountains, rivers, hills, forests and plains,
Our earth that floats in heaven's translucent sphere,
And keeps us fosterlings, though man attains --
As a spider winds the nerve white gossamer
From its own being, and unwinding sails
The heights -- the secrets of the stars, the sheer
Chasms of space, and tears the vaporous veils
From Force and Distance. Nature! At the last
Our breast of consolation! Man exhales
Thereon the spirit which was on him cast
From that same breast at birth. But what you are
Remains, or on the mind of man is glassed
As you, remaining; while the farthest star,
The changing moon, the lessening sun, the sands
Of buried cities toll our calendar
Of dying days. Waters by star light, lands
That slip or climb; leaves, blossoms, fruits contain
The flesh of wonder perished, and the hands
That sought with zeal or laughter, but in pain
To know you and themselves. Still nourishing,
Destroying, but unriddled, you remain!

Immeasurable Arc! To which our brief existence
Is a point, if relative, not understood.
With you endowed with motion and persistence,
Contained within you, is life evil, good?
Is life not of you? Is there aught without
By which to judge this restless brotherhood
Of will and water, and to quiet doubt
That life is good? And may the scheme deny
Itself when it is all, and rules throughout,
Knows no defeat, except as forces vie
Within it, striving? But, O Nature, you
Mother of suns and systems, what can lie
As God beyond you, making you untrue
To larger truth or being? You are all!
And man who moves within you may imbrue
His hands in war, or famine on him fall
Out of your eyeless genius, yet what wrong
Is wrought to your creating, magical
Renewal, scheme? What arbiter more strong
Than you are judges discord for the strife
That stirs upon our earth, wherever throng
Thoughts, forces, fires. What is evil? Life!
Even as life is struggle, whether it smite,
Or lift, as waves to waves in will are rife
With enmity. Whatever is, is right.
Like insects on a drift weed water tossed
The sea of nature moves in man's despite,
While generations flourish and are lost.

Ether of the ethereal energy
Which whirls the atoms: Will in man. And soul
Which is to light as light to flame: the free
Soaring of man's thought. This is the dole
And tragedy of man: He has outgrown
His kinship with the beasts that kept him whole,
Through thought, which is not instinct, but would own
The unerring realm of instinct. Like a sun
He flares his thought in storms of fire, has flown
His symmetry and sphere, has wandered, won
No orbit for the beast's, which he has marred,
Departed from; must finish what's begun,
Until he be in spirit moved and starred,
Instinct regained to thought, his sun created
As far as flames have leaped; or leave the scarred
Black cavities of his hopes to beings fated
To grow therefrom to what he failed to reach.
Something within him drew the gods, and mated
His spirit to celestial powers. The breach
Between him and the beast is fixed. He sinks
In tangled madness, anger, railing speech,
Below the ape, or else he rises, links
His being to a life to which he climbs,
A realm of thought harmonious, while he thinks.
This is the tragedy of man, and Time's
Colossal task laid on him: Roll he must
The stone up to the peak against the slimes,
And fasten it, or let it make him dust,
Escaped his hand and crushing, still confess
That you, O Mighty Mother, still are just
Who fling him down to failure, nothingness.
This is the tragedy of man: to learn
Your secret wishes, having learned to press
The heights of life, or ignorant still to burn
With questioning; and on this stage of earth
Live as they lived of old in a return,
Endless of useless labor, madder mirth.

Labor or Mirth! No matter -- but to man,
And for an hour! And after that the sleep.
Waking or sleeping man fulfills the plan
Of you, O Mother. Other thought may creep
On man's defeated spirit, make him say
That you should weep, O Mother, if he weep.
But we are but ephemera in a play
Of tangled sun light, and the universe
Of ages counts the minutes of our day,
And makes them of the ages. And the curse
That man deems his is not upon the far
And infinite existence. It could nurse
No evil in great spaces, sun and star
As great as man's to man, and not lie down
To death as man does. Hence if you unbar
To us, O Nature, nothing better, crown
Our hour with folly still, you give us rest
Among the mountains, meadows, and unclown
Our idiot brows, and on your infinite breast
Rock us eternally under the infinite sky.





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