Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NATURE AND ART, by THOMAS EDWARD BROWN



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NATURE AND ART, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I once loved nature so that man was nought
Last Line: Who moulds the wills of men, and grasps the bars of fate
Alternate Author Name(s): Brown, T. E.
Subject(s): Art & Artists; Nature; Religion; Theology


I

I ONCE loved Nature so that man was nought,
And nought the works of man:
Whether the human force that inward wrought
My vital needs outran,
And, bidden by great Pan,
In its all-quickening arms the visible deadness caught;

Or was it accident of time and place?
For men were few to see
Where I was reared, and Nature's copious grace
Of form and colour free
Eclipsed the piety
Of childish social loves, and motions of the race;

I know not quite: but this to me is known,
That, with a soft unrest,
Soul unto soul in perfect aptness grown,
I drew her to my breast,
A personal creature pressed,
Full of a passionate will, and moods that were her own.

Her own, yet, modulate and tuned to mine,
She shaped her meek replies
So that I ne'er bethought me to divine
If in her wondrous eyes
A light congenial lies,
Or, sprung from alien blood, insensate glories shine.

If homogeneous with me or not,
The question never tried me,
Or when, or wherefore, or of whom begot:
She seemed to stand outside me,
To soothe me and to guide me,
Another, or myself reflex, who cared one jot?

Thrice blest if I might roam on fell or shore
In exquisite solitude,
And uncontrolled the sarstnj pour
That with its interlude,
Far from all discord rude,
Comes once to fresh young hearts, and comes not evermore.

O, poet flush of all-compelling youth!
O, great interpreter!
O, artist prescient of the higher truth!
O, confident Lucifer!
O, nobly prone to err!
O, shadowless of doubt! O, innocent of ruth!

O, instinct vast! O, indiscriminate mind!
Not thus, but hesitant long,
That sculptor won the marble to be kind;
Thus rather, right or wrong
Untaught, Ixion strong
Held Nephele in arms a god might not unbind.

Then came the interact of will on will
The monad soul to frame;
And I was one of many, passion still,
And use, and praise, and blame,
The different, the same,
Shaping the definite self with change of good and ill.

A man with other men I had to dwell;
I had to love and hate,
To traffic with my heart, to buy and sell
Love's wares at current rate,
Mine enemies in the gate
With keen-edged sword of speech to harass and to quell.

Wherefore I come a being manifold,
Nature, to sue thy grace.
It is not that my heart is growing cold,
If, conscious of my race,
I look into thy face
With a less simple trust than that I felt of old.

It is because thou seem'st at our alarms
Unmoved: the ages fall
Helpless from out the rigour of thine arms,
Thou heeding not at all
If bridal veil or pall
Illustrate or obscure the glory of thy charms.

It is because, with all thy loveliness,
Thou hast no delicate flush
Of feeling instant in its brimmed excess,
And rippled at the brush
Of lightest thought: the hush
Is thine of ordered change, fixed and emotionless.

It is because thou canst not apprehend
Beyond our simplest needs;
Because, obedient to thy native end,
Thou knowest only deeds
Where link to link succeeds,
And no irrational gaps the golden sequence rend.

It is because the tracks of errant souls
Appear to thee so straight:
Unskilled to mark how latent force controls
The bias and the rate,
How inward grasping fate
Collects the various lines, and diverse sends the bowls.

Moreover, all the things that men have done,
The things that men have said,
Have made another light beneath the sun,
Another darkness shed,
Another soul-stream fed,
To cool in other wells, o'er other weirs to run.

I grant thou hast the very notes of prime,
But of the thousand tunes
Wherewith our summer loads the growing time,
The joyaunce of our Junes,
The full chromatic noons,
There is no scale to fit thy diapason chime.

Nor wilt thou, kindly monished, recognise
Of life the complex game:
We are not now as when, 'neath kindlier skies
Begot, to that great dame
Th' auroral offspring came;
We are no babes astride upon Eve's awful thighs.

So, haply, one has known a foster-sister,
And, when the years have gone,
Has felt, with all his hopes, as if he missed her,
And come, and looked upon
Her face, and proved anon
Her eyes were meaningless, and, sadly silent, kissed her.

II

O, Heaven! the mannikin! Is this gratitude?
"A foster-sister," saidst thou?
"A complex game?" What fell Locusta stewed
That damned fucus? Spread'st thou
The stuff upon thee? wed'st thou
That specious harlotry from Hell's black bosom spewed?

Up, up! for shame! She is thy sister: love her,
Come to her yet again:
Think not thine own quintessenced self above her!
O, see how she is fain
Her shyness to explain!
O, understand the blush her virgin cheek doth cover!

Eve, Adam! Yes, and all that Eden sap --
Is it impossible?
'Twould do thee good to lie in her great lap,
To have thy utmost will,
To fill thy utmost fill,
Creamed from the copious duct of that primeval pap.

Thou talk'st of music, and of tunes accord
With specialties to flirt --
What wouldst thou have? a homily -- good lord!
A logic malapert,
With pretty fence expert,
The play of thy caprice infallible to ward?

O fool! O fool! This is the very acme:
Far, far within the cells
Of winding thought, where man may never track me
She takes me, and she tells
The quaintest things, and spells
Ineffable spirit-tunes, and lulls the cares that rack me.

O, twilight bliss! O, happy even-song!
How well I know thy power!
O heather bells, that peal your faint ding-dong!
O bee, in sunny hour
Urging from flower to flower
The shrill-resounding brass of thy most patient gong!

O prelude of the windy-wailing morn!
O long-drawn moorland whistle!
O rustling of the multitudinous corn!
O sough of reed or thistle!
O holy, holy missal
Intoned by hooded clouds! O joy that I was born!

But thou'rt a being manifold -- alack!
And tak'st the simple sense
Into thy crucible, and giv'st it back
Brain-filtered and intense,
And Nature is too dense,
Forsooth! to hit thy scope, and imitate the knack!

Nay, what is this thou of thyself hast made?
Is this development?
O Lord of all the souls! is this the trade
For which we here were sent?
Is't not an accident,
By-play of function-work, by casual contact swayed?

'Tis not essential, though the world is roomy,
That I should coexist
With any animal bipes implume:
It is the core and gist
Of life that I should list
To Nature's voice alone, and hearken if she woo me.

But, as it is, innumerous bipeds press
And crowd on one another,
Nor would I have one animal the less;
And I must know my brother,
Some odd misgivings smother,
And smile, and chat, and take my commons with the mess.

Of course, the absolutest slave that crawls
Is social: so am I:
I have a place, I live within four walls --
Even horse to horse will try
Some matter of reply,
And hear his neighbour munch, and whinny o'er the stalls.

But this is accident, casual relation,
Wholly subordinate
To the main purport of our earthly station,
Which is to permeate
One soul with fullest freight
Of constant natural forms, not factual complication.

Else were our life both frivolous and final,
A mere skiomachy,
Not succulent of growth, not officinal
To what shall after be,
But Fortune's devilry
Of Harlequin with smirk theatro-columbinal --

A changeling life, that to the world's great heart
Just leans its elfish lips,
And soon falls off, and dies an imp confest,
And seeks the void, and skips,
As the dull Fury whips
The ineffectual ghosts, and drives it with the rest.

And, if the man has 'scaped such inanition,
Then why, returning here,
Does he not speak the language of contrition,
And strip the base veneer
From his poor soul, and fear,
And seek the long-lost love that saved him from perdition?

What means this talk of "complex game," and matters
That she "cannot divine"?
I tear this wretched sham of his to tatters:
O, blessed nature-wine!
O, sacred anodyne!
He is fact-poisoned, he! and knows not what he chatters.

Let him come humbly, let him make confession
It is no fault of hers
If he is all too dull to catch th' expression
Of her great thought, or blurs
Its mobile signatures
With mediate glare of self, and balks the true possession.

O sweet Titania, bedded in the lilies! --
I hate to think of it --
Pranking that ass's head with daffodillies,
That in his puzzled wit
Knows not thou art more fit
To hold in odorous arms the Peleid Achilles!

And yet he says, his lip fastidious-curled: --
"She's unappreciative."
Take him, good Puck! I prythee have him hurled
To where he is more native,
To chums communicative --
Snout, Snug, the parish club he fondly calls the world!

For me the happiness -- my good I find
In Nature's energies,
And am not frustrate. Nature is not blind
In promptings such as these,
But holds the secret keys,
Wherewith the wards that fence our hope she can unwind.

Both wrong, both right. 'Tis God appoints our state --
Nature and Art are one --
True art, true nature, never separate
In things beneath the sun.
So is His pleasure done,
Who moulds the wills of men, and grasps the bars of fate





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