Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FOOL'S ADVENTURE, by LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE



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THE FOOL'S ADVENTURE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I know, between all kinds of the world there are
Last Line: Within. I am thy self.
Subject(s): Fools; Adventure & Adventurers; Idiots


I

The Seeker. A Hermit.

SEEKER. I know, between all kinds of the world there are
No layers, no division: stone, leaf, flesh,—
All's flowing, like a stream of many waters.
But like a spilth of oil in the stream
Man's nature the same current flows along
Unmixing in the general kindliness,
Showing like slime against the deep wise water.
All Being with Mankind and the sin of Man
Refuses mixture; Sin is for man alone;
Yet is he carried down the same tendency
As the great pomp of all the creatures goes.
Who, that has read into the soul of man,
But is not ware that man's unhappiness,
Wherein he lives as in a smoke, comes hence?
He travels the same way, under the same force,
As all the beasts; yet being not a beast,
And this is Sin. What I must find is how
Man may be man, yet sinless.
Hermit. It is with mind
That thou hast read Man and the World?
Seeker. How else?
Hermit. Thou hadst done better with love.
Seeker. I take not that.
Hermit. The mind is to interpret to the heart:
Only the heart can answer to the world;
Mind knows the speech, but the heart the meaning.
Seeker. Well, to my question. Where grows the root of sin?
What a strong thing it is! Almost it seems
That Good is only if Sin lets it be.
Who is the monger of Man's Good and Bad?
What knowest thou of the world? Knowest thou this?
But that can hardly be, for thou hast not,
I have heard say, left once this little valley
These twenty years agone. And nowadays
Experiment not musing is the thing.
Thou canst not know the ways of men.
Hermit. My son,
These many years I have not been perplext
With the loud manners that fill all the towns
Of little-thoughted men. Here in my hut
I have perused with all my sense the earth,
And never once out of this valley gone.
I think, better I know the world than those
Who take abroad, into strange lands, small minds,
And choke their wonder,—that, the only sluice,
Easily out of gear, where through may pour
The pressure of Truth outside us, the deep world
Our enclosed minds are sunk in,—that they choke
And clutter up with gluts of rarities,—
Voyage the warm seas, where mild as mercy blow
Molucca breezes from the nutmeg woods,
Or brave the festering Congo and the jaws
Of crocodiles that guard Zambezi fords,
Through feverous land and a drumming din of flies
Up to the thirst of Tartary, and beyond,
Adventuring into the Northern night,
To roam the haunted frosts, and hear far off
Ice-thunder round the pole, the shouldering floes.
As farmers put heapt trash in an empty barn
They store in corners of their memories
Lumber from all the climes. Has foreign ground
More meaning in it than an English field?
But I, still staying in this upland hollow,
Where the earth gets up in royal attitudes
About me, sovereign for leagues, first ground
The weather treads on, visiting the plains,
Do better with my hills and silences.
That mountain yonder—look how the fells rise
And lift themselves endeavouring, till they achieve
Power upon space and a ken not disturbed,—
The unconcernèd summit of grey stone,
Aloof in its own wisdom, greatly calm:
And not a tree to break the mighty swerve
Up into the middle sky, the whole upheaval
Plain to be seen. The figure of that hill
If one should spend a life considering,
He would not die ignoble; and it would
Outlast a long life's questioning. Besides,
I have the continual workings of the air,
Who, that is wise, has ever tired of these?
Never an hour has been, since I came here,
That I could look upon nor be amazed.
Look at this rain now; that was a great event!
A darkened murmurous half-hour of rain
And hidden stormwork on the mountain-heads,—
Out of the clefts and off the ledges pours
The drenching (but its work is left behind)
And down the scarred cliff-sides suddenly lives
A white releasement of a hundred streams,
A gleam like weather'd marble-veins in the sun.
For, ere the shower seems well begun, the last
Tatters of its proof gloom are leaving us,
Drawn after the hasty errand of the storm;
The sagg'd awning furls, and sunshine is let in.
And now that the dinning rain is gone, a voice
Known dimly through the rattling past talks plain,—
The water milling the heavy stones, and long
Grumbling of boulders from their beds dislodged;
Like buried roar of gongs that have been heard
Sounded in faery halls under the hills.
And all the pother—wherefore? Half a day
Maybe it takes for the spate to fulfil itself
(From here to the sea is scarce a score of miles),
To bank its load of gravel privily
In thievish guarded cellars of the water;
Then into new storms, and all is to do again.
Wherefore?—No need for me to ask Wherefore?
I know it part of a Self, as a stray feeling,
A startle, say, at a chance sound, is part
Of my Self. He who has wondered all so well
As I these twenty years at streams and hills,—
Who has become their rashness, been their bulk,
Going into their nature, putting on
Their being and their mood and their old usage,—
Knows that of all this world there is a Self;
And, in some region of existence, lies
The Presence of this Self. Nor deem, my son,
Thy race a thing apart, not common kind
With Earth, these hills, that lake and its margent reeds
That greenly dusk over the evening in it.
It may be, we are close to the wheel's rim here,
Touching the hooping tire of forged law,
And things seem separate; but all, like spokes,
Are towards the nave, and fixt in it at root,
The Self of the World. There is the authority
Of the brook's speed, and of Man's Good and Bad.
Seeker. And there, in the presence of this self, will be
The mastery of Sin?
Hermit. There, if at all.
But who may talk with it? Or who shall go
Into its place?
Seeker. Truly, if none e'er tries,
None knows.
Hermit. Well, if you go to find this thing,
Your journeying must be through reigns of mind
Rather than lands and tongues.
Seeker. It must be tried.

II

The Seeker.

I have achieved. That which the lonely man
Spoke of, core of the world, that Self, I know.
Like one small pool to the reach of Heaven, I
Am open to a vastness. Hearken, thou,
Do I not know thee right? Thou art the deep
Whereunto all things yearn unwearyingly,
Some unaware, some hating that they yearn,
But all into a stillness, into Thee,
Falling at length, and their unrest is done,
Until again thou blurt them out of thee,
Out of the middle to the rind. And yet
Not them, but piecemeal what they were
New-fangled into other companies.
It is as if, not only once, far off,
Aloof from place and being I had watched
The spell betwixt two happenings end again;—
The dark's distress, slow qualms mastering it,
Blind thrills, and last, the sudden pang of light.
Methinks, plainly as I've felt earth's swoon
Wince at the touch of spring, awakening her,
The peace, thy region, shudder I have felt
When with it meddles thy new imagining;
And in the smooth element, ruffling, grows a throb,
Marring with its strong rhythm the prone calm.
Beat of the fresh beginning of an order;
One settled eddy at last, whose scouring kirtles
Gather to substance and perplexed shape,
To thickening spots of coarse, and curds of fire.
Again within the unform'd principle
Stress, that it have a grain; and yet more stress,
Till the unbounded shiver of light shatter
Innumerously, and into the clear inane
Come like a ghost another swarm of motes
Shepherded by thy thought into new flocks,
Away from thee, outward, circling, numberless kinds;
Yet the same partner, the old lust, is with them,
Unrest, severance from thy quietude.
Nor first, nor last of them, this swirl of stars,
Unlike the others, but in this thing like.
I from the place in Being called Mankind
Am come, seeking thee, and look, I know thee.
Not with my sense and reason only; these
Man fashioned for near needs of common life:
Good tools, but to find thee of no more use
Than ladders to thatch houses reach the sun.
Not Reason finds thee, though he walk with gait
Taking gulfs in his stride as far across
As in his yearly bout the throw of Saturn.
My wisdom was to practice with the power
Emotion, since I knew it was, though stall'd
In Somewhere, yet a piece of the Everywhere.
I knew my soul or self lied, when she said
Throughly she knew that stud of forces named
My body,—they all knew her and obeyed:
For this her hand did never bit, nor could.
Because it was more honourable than she
And all her royalty of sense and reason,
I humbled her and these before this thing,
And taskt them with a long and bitter work
To build a watch-tower, that the gaze therefrom
Might peer over the impracticable dykes
Of nature; in that roofless hermitage,
Unneighbour'd of Life, but viewing the whole Fate,
This thing I found in me, Emotion, watched;
And all Fate spake with her, like as the noise
Of shawms and sackbuts may wake fellowship
In a harp's unused strings; 'twas so she thrilled
Answerably to Fate as to a din,
The Emotion I have in me, being in tune
With Fate, the greater passion with the less,
Each to the other kith. 'Tis this in me,
Thou Self of the World, that knows thee now. And now
That thou art known, what answer, Self of the World?

The Voice of the World.

So I am known. And which of my desires
Has won to know itself, and so known me?
Seeker. I am Man. Man knows thee here.
World. Thou strangest of me,
Man, it were better hearing had some other
Thrown back a sense along its own sleuth from me.
Seeker. That I believe, if only 'tis with Man
Thou dealest, that, knowing, he accuses thee.—
Thou answerest not? Art thou amazed if Man
Accuses thee? But I will show thee cause.
Whether thou couldst be if the world were not,
Or wert before the world, and in a mood
Made it as if it were a song,—wilt be
When thy song's riming fails, thy mood doth change,
I know not,—only thou art to the world
A Self. But all things come from thee, and all
Go thither back. Here, we are part of thee,
But there, we are thou thyself. But thou hast mixt
Sin into Man: though, like all else, his nature
Is towards thee, this pricks away from thee.
Or is it that the tether unto thee
As tooth'd and ragged gyves is fastened on him,
So that to him cruel is thy constraint,
The Law, to all else gentle, unfelt, alone
Hurtful to Man? Ay, hear now what Sin is;
For what is named Man's knowledge of Himself
Is just pain of this gnawing, which keen self-knowledge,
The bitter discomfort to be part of thee,
So fiercely burns within him that the white flame
Called Consciousness ousts from its lamp of pain,
Dafts from man's wit the clew thou hold'st him by,
Cheats him to think he may have power to follow
Laws of his own, not thine,—that he is not
In thee, worsening his lot tenfold,
Making him still tug at the biting gyves.
For this does man accuse thee. Hast thou not
Power upon thine actions? Surely, Lord.
Do so, that man is never more a nest
For sin. The chief thing thou hast given Man
Is, that he has the noble power to hate
Himself: to be aware of the flange of Law,
Which is to hate it, though he know it not.
And what is Law but the feeling after Thee,
The blind desire in things to be at one
With thee? So Man desireth, and alone
Hates his desire, the main thing in his being.
Man has gone out of the large commonalty;
The rapture and the kinship of the earth,
The strained blue ecstasy of the night and stars,
The faith whereby the mountains still endure
In their old attitude of prayer, the psalm
Of young brooks, and the loud seas' prophecy,—
No like to these for Man, no part in this
The one thing common through the world that makes
Life of the flesh, flame of the marrying atoms,
Strength of the hills, speed of the airs, be one.
He hates the law, and therefore hates himself,
Hates Thee, that is. Thou see'st what comes of this?
With desperate flings he tries to be rid of Law,
But only makes the flange gride harshlier;
The beasts lust blindly, but Man craftily,
For pleasure: but 'tis as a fever thirsts;
To Man alone, from the dust his footsteps mark
Gives nature to lift eyes and see the large
Kind-season'd region that he travels through;
But also (and this asks for all his gaze)
Gives him to see Death sitting by the way,
To measure fearfully the space between
His robe clutcht, and grim alms demanded of him.
Self knowledge wretched for self-ignorance happy:
This is thy doing. Does this seem to thee Good?
World. Peace, for here be neither good nor bad;
I am myself, not Man. Thou knowest me?
Not so. I am not sinful, nor am good.
Atoms have their own nature, and the stars,
All life, slime, spawn, grass, birds and beasts, their own,
Each than the last more manifold, a new kind.
The thing that, quickening in the beast's dark brain,
Made the beast no more beast but Man, was Sin;
White courses to the stars, and sin to man.
Thus is it to me;—to thee, it is not good?
And what have I to do with this?
Seeker. Art thou
He to whom Man lifts his thought, the God?
But no, I think thou art some outer devil,
Filching the voice of Him who is within
The clouds of Time and the World, hangings that hide
God and his love and zeal.
World. But, if thou wilt,
What thou art I will shew to thee.
My thought
Moved in its brooding, and its movement stirred
A ripple in the quiet of the waters
Whereunder my thought's Sabbath is moored deep,—
The region of the happening of my Will.
And when my act, this ripple's viewless travel,
In its upheaval reacht the upper calm
Laid on the mere, whose waters are my Will,
Whose surface is Appearance and broad Place,
Its breaking whirls became a journeying wave,
That at the last became a gathered sea,
A pile of all the waters in one tide.
But it is grown to its height; and now, before
The smooth heapt power tumbles down in surf,
Its head is whiten'd with an age of spray,
Weakness beginning. Lo, that spray is Man,
Crest of the wave, and token of its downfall.
Not stately, like the early wave, nor clear,
Nor with an inner lodging for the light,
But troublous, misty, throwing off the light
In glitter, all apieces, loose, uneasy.
Truly my act is near its end when thou,
Man, the loose spray, ride on its stooping neck,
From one firm bulk of waters, one onward gang,
Broken away to be brawl of drops,
Freedom and hither-thither motions light,
Each drop one to itself, a discrete self.
Thou freedom, thou high self-acquaintance, thou Sin,
Man, dost thou know me? But now know thyself.

III

The Seeker. A Sage.

Seeker. At first I thought it was not God; but now
I have no hope left. For I went abroad
Asking for certain knowledge of God's goodness,
Which none could give me. Then at last I saw,
Although his speaking squared not with my wish,
There was no cause to doubt my reason's word,
That the World's Self must be what man calls God.
Sage. Give not up lightly.
Seeker. Was this a light thing,
After my hopes and seekings, to find God
Careless, nay, bitterly mocking man for sin?
Sage. I am an old man talkative and dreamy,
This search of thine remembers me of one
Strange dream I had a many winters gone.
Shall I have patience from thee if I tell it?
Seeker. I came here for advice, not dreams. I guess,
Whether thou hast my patience or hast not,
I shall not leave thee till it's told. Is it long?
Sage. It was a slave, and he toiled with a kern
Made, as it seemed, of one blue shining stone,
Clearer and bluer than Eryri's waters.
And the kern held strange corn, gold grains and silvern,
Which, being ground, threw up a dust of light,
And motes of light were tangled in his hair,
And like a gramary the glittering chaff
Misted that crooked toil, that fair it seemed,
Nothing so radiant as that slavery.
Where was that strange corn sown? said I, and who
Is master of thee and so rare a kern?—
He turned, and lookt at me through the bright haze.
He was an angel, and the sapphire kern
The hollow heaven, and the corn he ground
Was all the silver stars and golden suns.
Still of that grist and brittle light I askt:
What acre was it drilled in, by whose hand?—
I was not at the sowing, answer'd he;
But He who ploughed, whose coulter brake the clods,
Told me His Word was sown at large in a field
Broad cast, and soon would spring. I watched for it;
Lo, this was the crop,—His Word, but so enwrapt,
So huskt in light, so sheathed in a harsh rind,
Long must I bray it, blowing off the chaff
And shining flaky scabbards of the Word,
This corn, before the Word itself I find.
But I was wiser than the angel then;
And I suppose he's grinding still, unless
His Master has been by, and told him light
And all such husks are quite fit things for study.
Who looks to find the Word by freeing it
From casing draff, is like when his shift ends
To have found nought else but husk. Be sure
If anything seems dirt and husk to you,
You're not the man is going to find the Word.
Seeker. Here's nought to my purpose. But thy memory
Leaks, I suppose, like all old vessels +o.
My quest, as I have told thee once, is this:
Out of the brutish rose up man: the clay
Upon the wheel of years became a jar;
But when 'twas fully fashion'd, it had caught
From some strange shower liquour such as clay
Never before was moist with: Man was sinful.
Why he, who let shape Man, should so have used
His work, pouring into him Sin, I seek.
The clay were better still an unhandled lump
Than wrought only to hold such sour evil.
But if it be possible, I would find what means
May empty Man of sin: this was my quest;
But what hope, now that I have talkt with God
And heard Him speak?—A raven's voice, his bill
Up to the neesings sunk in a lamb's wet life,
His chuckling greed half-smother'd in the warm inwards,
That scarce he could bark his kill, so choked, would sound
Startling the quiet of a hill-shut noon
In sunny early summer kindlier
Than when God talkt with me.
Sage. When didst thou talk
With God?
Seeker. Have I not told thee?—the world's soul
I knew, and is not that the God?
Sage. Poor fool,
And didst thou think this present sensible world Was God?
Seeker. No, not the knowledge of the senses,
But the world's heart; the gathering place of all
Being: the weir of all the flowing Powers,
The limbeck whereinto are poured all storms
And quiets, duties of the elements,
Whether to be firm standing or steep ruin
And all betwixt, man and his mind among them,
To be confused there and throed forth again;
The sea whose measureless tide conquers its shores,
Then, ebbing, buildeth of far-journeying silt
New wharves, mud all astir with a writhe of growth,
Till the deep want them, and they move again,
Knowing whose hand upon their shoulders laid:
Then is a curdle of worlds loosed again
And is abroad in the great deep again.
I mean the soul, that feeds on many dooms
And waits now for this world; there is allowed
Nor part, nor kind, nor shape, in space or time,
Therein, nor law; but these come out of it.
Over its own expressions, heavens and stars,
Fires and lightnings, life, thought, sin and pain,
The ever widening roundures of the work
One act thrown up by it must make, it broods;
But they, remembering That whence they came,
Each gathered crowd of things, and of Its presence
Deeply aware, by fine unthinkable nerves
Are tied to it, and have it for a self.
Sage. Just that, for one who thinks, does the World mean.
And that thou thoughtest God?
Seeker. I did.
Sage. Therefore
I said, Poor fool.
Seeker. What is it then?
Sage. The world?
It is a name.
Seeker. What wilt thou mean? What name?
Sage. The name Lord God chooses to go by, made
In languages of stars and heavens and life,
The senses life achieves, and wills and lusts
Up to the top of life, man and his sin,
All is the writing of the name of God.
Seeker. Fantastic and quite out of date. But I
Have cleaned my senses' panes of spider-work
That ignorance webs on them, know the world
Not a blurred shadowy thing, that darkling peers
(Uncertain which is world, which window's dirt,)
Into the mind, a ghost; a real world mine.
I know this growth about me, stones, herbs, beasts;
Stars and their golden games in the blue heaven
I know, and the life that runs through all, and what
It runs towards;—how the grand heats will be
A stupid frost, and all the young lustful matter
Decrepit, gone unhandsomely into crumbs.
And I, perhaps the sole of living minds,
Know what this is,—the end of separation,
The return to the Self of this happening.
I know that all, while here in their proper strength,
Are present to the Self, I know that all
Feel that the Self is ware of them,—Enough;
The Self under the world is real, the world
Is therefore real in it. And how jumps this
With what thou talk'st of a Name?
Sage. Easily.
As the meaning to the letters or the sound,
So that, thou call'st a Self, is to the World;
This, the characters; that, the Name indeed.
Seeker. Ay, I have heard thou art a poet. So
All trials such as I do on the world
Are nothing to thy fantasy. And yet
I failed, for that which I uncovered was
No monger of the good and bad. Where then
Wons he who holds the store of good and bad?
Is there another? Canst thou tell me aught?
Sage. I have not travelled much, but I have talkt
With those who in far regions use to fare.
And they, among encounters and strange tales,
Oft mention of a king whose palace lies
Upon the edge of place, the verge of things.
None ever found admittance at his gate;
All manner of war has spent itself against
His cliffy walls, never an embassage
Won to his presence. So the neighbouring kings
(And great lords they) speak of him as their Lord.
I tell the rumours as I had them told.
But it is said, Sin has been heard to boast
(Some have known Sin and have had speech with him)
He knew a postern, and the trick of its lock,
Whereby he might, at any time, be in
The house of the unseen king. It may be, then,
A parley with this prince, could it be had,
Were helpful to the shutting up of Sin;
As, if one prayed him set a hidden guard
Behind the postern, which might seizure make
Upon this insolent intruding Sin
When next he dares creep into holy rooms.
Or if, as I have thought, this unknown Power
Be he that doth commission Sin, then ask
For why is his employment, on what grounds
Sin's warrant were withdrawn; so strike with him
A treaty. Maybe thou wilt find in him
Thy monger of the good and bad. Come then
And I will tell thee all that I have heard
About the roads that go to this king's house.

IV

The Seeker.

Who is within this darkness?

The Voice from Within.

Whom thou seekest.
Adventure thou no further. Not for thee,
If any road beyond my dwelling goes.
Seeker. Is there no wicket through this barrier'd gloom,
Uncertainty wall'd against my ken? Unlatch,
If to thy place be any door.
Within. Not gloom,
Impotence; thou canst not understand my being.
My shape and the dimensions it inhabits
Are nought thy senses take, nor yet thy main
Intelligence. Therefore my presence is
Shut to them, dark. Theirs is the gaol, not mine.
Seeker. But whom I seek, thou art?
Within. None other, I.
Seeker. Art thou the monger of the Good and Bad?
Within. I am.
Seeker. Ah, I am come at my desire;
Now there is hope for thee, poor earth. Hearken,
Strange king; knowst thou that Sin?
Within. I know him well.
He is now with me, here.
Seeker. What, is Sin rooft
Under thy unplaced weather, within this weld
Of powers unknowable, thy house?
Within. Ay, here.
Seeker. But, when I left the world, he was among us,
Busy.
Within. And still is in the world, and busy;
Yet is he here.
Seeker. I pray thee, keep him penn'd.
I think thou canst not know how ill he does
Down there, among us men. Didst thou not think
Our life was to be clean, one purity,
One beauty, as the rain drops make one bow,—
Perchance, of all the many little minds,
One brain, capable of thy knowledge? Look,
I pray thee, how Sin spoils thy hope, whate'er
That was, but surely not the thing life is.
Look down from where thou art, the Heaven, and see
His meddling; how his enlargèd skill turns life
Into a foul unseemly mess—no good
A-hover o'er it now, nor able ever
Unto a higher state . Time to reach,
But still unshapen'd, crude, unworkt by Law
Into another quality, to sprawl,
Stuff not worthy Law's craft to fashion, waste
Of being, unsound, that will not bear the tongs
And hammering of thy workman, as all else
Is forged and smitten into new kinds and better,—
That will not answer to his handling, give
Obedience to his tools, being rotten, mixt
With sullen wrong. Thus has Sin done with life,
Beseech thee, pen him close, far off, O Lord.
Within. That would be hard to do.
Seeker. Yet surely thou
Hatest this foul-toucht grimly Sin?
Within. Sometimes
Full bitterly I hate him, and sometimes
He is my friend.
Seeker. O my hurt soul, thy friend?
But thou hast power over him?
Within. It may be.
Seeker. And good and bad, these are thy mongery?
Within. They are, as I have said.
Seeker. None else controls them?
Within. None else controls or portions Good and Bad.
Seeker. Then thou art God?
Within. Ay, many call me so.
And yet, though words were never large enough
To take me made, I have a better name.
Seeker. Then truly, who art thou?
Within. I am Thy Self.






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