Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A HYMN OF IMAGINATION, by GORDON BOTTOMLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A HYMN OF IMAGINATION, by             Poem Explanation         Poet's Biography
First Line: Imagination's towers appear
Last Line: To be resumed in god we ripen here?
Subject(s): Imagination; Fancy

IMAGINATION'S towers appear,
And every tower is a steep prolonging
Of the earth's radius dark and sheer.
Like swart birds thronging
Into a sunset safe and near --
Or down horizons shimmering hence,
Swift precipices of radiance, baffling wings --
Or gleaming white against the dense
And thunderous presences of immortal things --
Imagination's measureless towerings
Bear down upon the beds of reality,
Accede to gravity for inmost law
Where the earth's radius and their cores agree
To raise externes of awe.

Baseless Invention is the newer god,
A liquorous and incontinent quality,
The blind men's fingering upon the veil.
Here intellect intrudes, the mode
Of building wonders mentally;
And in this styptical, this pale
And secondary blindness of the brain
The limits of experience decide.
Mental immoderation is in vain;
It closes up, where sympathy makes wide
Man's comprehension of dissimilar things;
It sets man to believe himself his guide,
His standard too; ay, and it has denied
Imagination's murmurings
(The only conscience that is not pride)
Because Imagination hath dissension
From brain-wrought marvellings.
The nourishing of religions is Invention,
Wonders and furbishings;
There merchants of the incredible, in contention,
Postulate Divinity apart
From knowledge or perception; crude desire
Seeks an Unknown for gaping at, a mart
Where virtue whips God's first debentures higher:
Nor may Imagination's shining
Reveal in them the mirror where
God shines reply most heavenly fair --
Divinity dawns through passions of divining;
Who yearns for God will seek Him in the heart.

Imagination does not thus devise
Wilful and rootless miracles:
It works by still and inward symmetries;
Sounds, when resolved into clear harmonies,
Achieve such bright coincidence
As shakes man's spirit in its wells
When something borne becomes a sense
Of understanding, yet something else
Than understanding --
A hushed commanding
Of destinies
Beyond our eyes,
Ability to conceive the nature
Of every creature, every stature,
Ability to live in every form,
To know the passions that have passed,
Stillness or storm,
In nobler hearts or hearts of sin --
All things without at last
Answering to things within.

Imagination is acceptance wrought
When things beyond ourselves with faint sounds press
Upon the limits of our consciousness;
Man is not loftier by taking thought,
By domination, by knotting hard and straining
Upon the convolutions of his will
As one who tests a cable though remaining
Heedless of what it stays or binds --
The qualities of tense cables, to such minds,
Being sufficient for salvation's thrill.

A little princess dawning through a mist;
An old, old horn
In forests forlorn;
An ageless crying
When night and rains have kissed
And dark wide wings are vying
With clouds' and the earth-shadow's flying;
The fragile proud and passive shapes
That bear the burden of all men's love for ever;
Legend, faery, enchantments of each weaver
Of glimmering romance (escapes
From blinding customary sights),
Of shadows that forecast
Man's implication with the earth --
Sea, fire, and mountain, and their sprites
Of danger, tempting, warning, mirth,
Which signified that kinship in the past;
Dead inventions these remain
In the rigid sinuous brain,
Unless tuned sympathy shall twin
Things without to things within --
Then Imagination sheer
Makes them intimate and near,
And their essences appear.

It is the knowledge of responsibility.
It is the permeant air that spirits breathe,
The high pure ether where appearances
And other tricks of shadow-casting substance must unwreath
And only essences can be:
It can inform all wonder, all degrees
Of lean ideal virtue, and all charm
Of haunting far-off lights and low
Lost murmurs; and with power it can endow
The gods that bless or harm:
But in man's common impacts here and now
Its fierce illumination is most plain --
Man's deeds are seen to work in him again;
Though done in secret they must change his brow.
To look upon the things that must be borne
Has, by Imagination, no less pain;
But, if the looking be without men's scorn
Of all they deem they understand,
We have our revelation close at hand.
We see new harmony advance,
We need no promise of continuance;
By life and nature, earth and man,
Our indicated destiny we scan;
We are advised to spend no breath
In echoing heaven from walls raised up by death;
By flower and beast is it not clear
To be resumed in God we ripen here?

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