Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: AFTER LONG AGES, by EDWARD CARPENTER

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: AFTER LONG AGES, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Tired child, on thy way to paradise
Last Line: "we also pass into peace and joy eternal."
Subject(s): Hearts; Heaven; Love; Memory; Poetry & Poets; Paradise

Tired child, on thy way to Paradise:

Does the path seem long? Rest here and let us beguile a few moments.
Rest here, in mortal form Thou that I see advancing—Child of sin and
sorrow and suffering rest close here.

Hast thou heard faintly between the clouds in the everlasting blue the
music of voices and of wings? Hast thou gazed deep into the eyes of the animals?

Hast thou silent in the great secret caverns of thy own heart heard the
awful footsteps of thy Lover advancing?
Be at peace. Fear not. Behold, thou shalt conquer all evil.
Clouds of gloom shall wrap thy soul; the long days without grace shall
weary thee; the voice of whom thou lovest shall speak to thee as of old no more
Be at peace. Fear not. Behold, thou shall conquer all evil.

Turn, lift up thine eyelids, to me, beautiful one; clear away the shadows
of the lashes from those liquid deeps;
Turn full-orbed thy gaze against mine. Fear not. Serene serene as heaven is
all that is between us.
Who is it that I see sitting at her lattice window...far down those liquid
Who is it the voice of whose singing comes borne to me like the sound of a
voice across the far sea?
What is this figure, dear child, that I see moving so mysteriously in those
Vague-outlined, hinted, as of one moving behind a curtain?

Lo! the caged one, the solitary prisoner feeling around the walls of her
Lo, the baffled beaten and weary soul! lo, the crowned and immortal god!


After long ages resuming the broken thread—coming back after a long
but necessary parenthesis,
To the call of the early thrush in the woods, and of the primrose on the
old tree-root by the waterside—
Up with the bracken uncurling from the midst of dead fronds of past selves:

As of morning, and to start again after long strange slumber and dreams,
Beholding the beautiful light, breathing the dainty sweet air, the
outbreath of innumerable creatures,
Seeing the sun rise new upon the world as lovers see it after their first
All changed and glorified, the least thing trembling with beauty—all
all old sights become new, with new meanings—
Lo! we too go forth.
The great rondure of the earth invites us, the ocean-pools are laid out in
the sunlight for our feet.

For now, having learned the lesson which it was necessary to learn, of the
intellect and of civilisation—
Having duly taken in and assimilated, and again duly excreted its
Once more to the great road with the animals the trees and the stars
traveling to return—
To other nights and days undreamt of in the vocabularies of all
I inevitably call you.


Calm and vast stretches the sea as at the first day, in sheets of blue and
white; a light ground-swell sends the transparent wash over a bank of shingle,
where it lies in pools along the water's edge.
A lug-sailed fishing boat drifts lazily with the tide, and then comes to
anchor in the glaze; three or four porpoises show their backfins, oscillating as
they pass;
While to the westward, far in the haze, phantom-like and large with the
early sun on their sails, two square-rigged brigs glide on.

The chrysanthemums stand crowded in the cottage garden—and the ships
glide on and on in the offing;
The low sun sends his light streaming over the world, and glows amid the
myriad salmon-pink petals tipped with yellow.
Ho! the sweet autumnal air! the cool green leaves thick-waving!

O earth, naked in love, bulging sunwards, with rosy fingers clasped about
your head, and feet at the opposite pole,
Smiling and proud and with raised head I see you glance at your own
beautiful body—at the sea, at the ships, at the star-shaped flowers of
Smile for smile unashamed you return to greet the glances of your lord.
But when night comes and the stars appear,
Pensive, unobserved, up on one arm raising yourself, to! now I see you gaze
a road in solemn wonder;
For a new life moves within you—yet what to be you divulge not.


Well-folded for man waits the word for which so many ages he waits; not one
moment before its due time is it spoken.
The runnels of water tinkle downwards towards the sea;
Calling to their cattle over the hills the voices of the herdsmen sound
very musically through the still air; from afar and down the galleries of Time
come the sounds of all mortal occupations;
The axe rings hollow among the woods; high in great quarries facing the sun
is heard the click of chisels and the helter-skelter of falling stone; the
hammers of the riveters echo along the shipyards of numberless shores;
The great promontories stand out mute over the sea; not one moment before
their due time do they speak;
And the ships glide past them to the coasts of all lands, the winged
thoughts of the voyagers circle the globe.

Well-folded and concealed the purpose of the earth waits: innumerable are
the arguments of the little creatures that run about on it; wonderful their
designs, exemplary their tenacity; but this purpose puts all the arguments and
designs aside in time—it overpowers and convinces the most tenacious.
[For all creatures that are on the earth have different designs, and their
arguments and actions war against and destroy each other;
But if thou canst in thyself open the door to that purpose which all fulfil
alike, then shalt thou be free from the bonds of action and of argument, and
shalt be absolved from that time forward.]


Sweet are the uses of Life.

The house is wreathed with holly boughs at Christmas; the shining
holly—the smooth-leaved—out of the woods nods to the sparkling eyes of
the children as they dance;
The candles are darkened, and they stand round the dragon-fire in the bowl,
hushed, large-eyed, in the livid and flickering light.
The sun rises magnificent in winter upon the vast concave of air—level
bars of mist lie in the hollows; firs and evergreens adorn the bare and silent
The horse in the stable purrs at the sound of the tread of his master, and
turns his beautiful head, as much as to say, Why are you so late with my
breakfast? He paws impatiently while his feed is being prepared.
Towards the city along all the roads in the early light the workers
converge. They take wafts of the fresh morning with them to their work. Sorrow
and joy accompany them and share their meals in the everyday old haunts.

In the house a Stranger waits for the children; he stands by in the dark
and leans over them and watches their faces, as they watch the dancing blue
He moves along the roads unseen, and waits in the great city, and in the
woods at early dawn he waits. None but the woodman and He see the thin waned
moon arising with stars in pale and silent beauty before the sun.

Sweet are the uses of Life.
The Stranger glides to and fro; hours and centuries and thousand-year
stretches he waits.
Among the children of mankind he waits. He too takes his place with the
rest; he is a king, a poet, a soldier, a priest, a herdsman, a fig-pricker, a
It is indifferent: he sees all and passes with all—joy surrounds him
wherever he is.
He sees the down-trodden and outcast; he sees the selfish and
tyrannical—he looks them right in the face but they do not see him;
He sees the patient and heroic; but he utters no word either of praise or

The tall ash-shoots aspire in the hedge-rows; the trees lift innumerable
fingers towards the sky, the brooks run downward unceasingly, atoms that have
remained for thousands of years sealed in the rocks arise and pass beyond the
boundaries of the earth and go voyaging through space;
All else hastens onward towards some unknown accomplishment—unerring;
He waits secure, and sings the songs of praise.
The morning and the evening are his song, and the land and the sea are the
words of it, and the voices of all creation heard in silence are the perpetual
offering of it.
He needs not to arise, nor to go hither and thither—all is finished
and perfect.
What he desires, what he alone dreams of, that all mortal things through
all time and space never-ceasingly occupy themselves to perform.
His fingers, as he sits at ease among the other children, are the myriad
sunbeams and the thicksown stars and the innumerable blades of grass;
The winds are his messengers over all the world, and flames of fire his
servants; the icebergs break from their northern shores, the southern lands
clothe themselves with green and yellowing crops, and the clouds float over the
half-concealed dappled and shaded Earth—to fulfil his will, to fulfil his
eternal joy.


Sweet are the uses of Life.
The morning breaks again over the world as a thousand and a million times
The light flows rippling in, and up to the window-pane, and passes through
and touches the eyelids of the sleeper.

It says: "Come forth, I have something to show you.
And the sleeper arises and goes forth—and everything is the same as
Then he says to the light, "You have deceived me, there is nothing new
here"—so he goes back sullenly to his chamber.
But the light is not huffed, but comes again next morning (thinks nothing
of the long journey across) and slips through the window-pane and touches the
sleeper's eyelids as before, "Come forth, I have something to show you;"
And again the next morning, and the next, and the next.
And the sleeper wonders whatever the light would be at, but the latter says
nothing—only fails not to keep his self-made appointment.

Then after many years, after many thousands of years—
After many times lying down to sleep and rising again, after many times
entering again into the mother's womb, after often passing through the gates of
birth and death—the sleeper says to him that awakes him:
"Ah! beautiful one, ah! prince of love, so many times with thy fingers in
vain touching my closed lids!
Now at last thy love pouring in upon me has found an entrance, and filling
my body breaks the bounds of it, and bursts forth back again into the regions
whence thou comest.
Ah! prince of love, lord of heaven, most beautiful one, of thee I am
enamored and overcome with love;
Beholding thy beauty, hearing the words that thou sayest to me, being
touched with the nearness of thy breath and the divine odor which exhales from
thee—being sick, constrained with love, rending the chains which detain
Henceforth the long chain of births and deaths I abandon, I arise and go
forth with thee—to begin my real life."


Sweet are the uses of Life.
The woodstacks stand in the woods, and the ground is strewn with chips amid
the fluttering anemones; the woodman downs his felling axe and lifts the
beer-can to his lips;
The sweat streams in his face and beard, the sun-warm odor of the pines is
wafted, and the bee booms through the clearing.
At night, ready for the alarm bell of fire, round their table in the
engine-room smoking and playing cards the firemen sit; preparing for sleep the
innocent girl rose-bud pats and smoothes her hair admiringly in the glass.
Sweet are the uses, sweet the calls;
Out of the glass which is ever opposite peers a face which is not to be
The flame leaps up behind the city roofs, the beer in the can stretches out
like a lake among the trees before the thirsty drinker, the table is spread for
the hungry with delicious viands;
The tongue presses gently the palate, the freshly running blood leaps and
pulses like a brook through the arteries, the swarming millions in it dance past
the Stranger who sits upon the banks;
Fresh comes the call each morning; (who knows whether now or when he will
The deed of daring calls, ambition calls, revenge and hatred call; the sun
calls peeping over the mountains in the morning, the stars call glancing in at
the windows at night, the myriad dancing sights and sounds call, weaving their
magic circle as of old;
Hardly can he resist the fetch; he is drawn forth whether he will or no;
The primrose on the tree-root calls, love calls glancing from eyes of depth
Sexual lusts and cravings call—sweet fever for other flesh which
nought else will satisfy,
Bruised bitter-sweet passion, determined and desperate falling swooned and
breathless on beloved lips and limbs.


Centuries long in her antechambers tarrying,
Lost in strange mazes, wandering, dissatisfied—in sin and sorrow,
lonely despised and fallen—
At length the soul returns to Paradise.
(O joy! the old burden, passing words!)

The humble bee among the currant blooms hangs centuries long suspended; the
lark still carols a mere speck in the sky.

Centuries long in her autochambers tarrying,
Lost in strange mazes, wandering dissatisfied,
Out of the windows peering wondering longing,
Following the shadowy angel—by others unseen—that comes and
Leaving all, leaving house and home, leaving year-long plans and purposes,
ease and comfort,
Leaving good name and reputation and the sound of familiar voices,
untwining loved arms from about her neck, yet twining them closer than
Through the great gates, redeemed, liberated, suddenly in joy over the
whole universe expanding—after her many thousand year long exile,
At length the soul returns to Paradise.

Cinderella the cinder-maiden sits unbeknown in her earthly hutch;
Gibed and jeered at she bewails her lonely fate;
Nevertheless youngest-born she surpasses her sisters and endues a garment
of the sun and stars,
From a tiny spark she ascends and irradiates the universe, and is wedded to
the prince of heaven.


O let not the flame die out!
Hitherto with wayward feet, in ignorance as a child, with sweet illusions
and shows like dancing fireflies, and hopes and disappointments, have you been
led on;
Henceforth putting these aside, as coming of age and to your inheritance,
deliberately looking before and after you shall measure your undertaking and
your powers.
For as a traveler beholds a snow mountain on the distant verge, beautiful,
with inexpressible longings through the hot summer air—so as belonging to
another world shall you behold from afar the signal of the goal of your
Rising, falling, lost in thickets wildernesses deserts, the untrodden
summit shall yet gleam on you—its beauty shall never be forsaken of your

O let not the flame die out!
Cherished age after age in its dark caverns, in its holy temples cherished,

Fed by pure ministers of love,
Let not the flame die out!

Within thy body I behold it flicker,
Through the slight husk I feel the quick fire leaping—
Let not the flame die out!
Send forth thy ministers for fuel.
Send forth the sight of thine eyes and the reaching of thy hands and the
wayward stepping of thy feet,
Teach thy ears to bring thee and thy tongue to speak—labor, and spend
all that thou hast for love; faint not: be faithful.
Cast at last thy body, thy mortal self, upon it, and let it be consumed;
And behold! presently the little spark shall become a hearth-fire of
creation, and thou shalt endue another garment—woven of the sun and stars.

Cinderella the cinder-maiden sits unbeknown in her earthly hutch:
Love sees her once and rests no more till he has rescued and redeemed her.


O laughter, laughter!
Shake out O clouds and winds your hidden words over the earth—and you
ye meadows rejoice with innumerable daisies!
All the songs and hymns of creation from the first day, all the carols of
the birds and choiring of the sun and stars in the limpid and boundless aether!
What sang and fluttered in the leaves, and was heard between the clouds in
the blue;
What poured itself out in sorrow and was exhaled in death, stumbling on in
the dark over stocks and stones—
Weary and bruised yet faithful, determined and undaunted,
To become as that which is ever the same as itself, entering into the
inheritance of beauty, the great veil lifted—
Beholding the original of all the things which move outside, the company of
the immortal hosts, the rose of glory, radiant behind all mortal things—
Overcome, blinded with splendor, falling trembling on the threshold—
The long long journey is accomplished!


That day—the day of deliverance—shall come to you in what place
you know not; it shall come but you know not the time.
In the pulpit while you are preaching the sermon, behold! suddenly the ties
and the bands—in the cradle and the coffin, the cerements and
swathing-clothes—shall drop off.
In the prison One shall come; and the chains which are stronger than iron,
the fetters harder than steel, shall dissolve—you shall go free for ever.
In the sick-room, amid life-long suffering and tears and weariness, there
shall be a sound of wings—and you shall know that the end is near—
[O loved one arise! come gently with me; be not too eager—lest joy
itself should undo you.]
In the field with the plough and chain-harrow; by the side of your horse in
the stall;
In the brothel amid indecency and idleness and repairing your own and your
companions' dresses;
In the midst of fashionable life, in making and receiving morning calls, in
idlesse, and arranging knicknacks in your drawing room—even there, who
It shall duly, at the appointed hour, come.

Ask no questions: all that you have for love's sake spend;
For as the lightning flashes from the East to the West, so shall the coming
of that day be.

All tools shall serve—all trades, professions, ranks, and occupations.

The spade shall serve. It shall unearth a treasure beyond price.
The stone-hammer and the shovel, the maul-stick and palette, the high stool
and the desk, the elsin and the clamms and the taching ends, the whipping-lines
and swingle-tree, will do;
To make a living by translating men's worn-out coats into boys'
jackets—that also will do.
The coronet shall not be a hindrance to its wearer; the robes of office
shall not detain the statesman; lands, estates, possessions, shall part aside
for him who knows how to use them; he shall emerge from the midst of them, free.

The writer shall write, the compositor shall set up, the student by his
midnight lamp shall read, a word never seen before.
The railway porter shall open the carriage door and the long expected
friend shall descend to meet him.
The engine-driver shall drive in faith through the night. With one hand on
the regulator he shall lean sideways and peer into the darkness—and lo! a
new signal not given in the printed instructions shall duly in course appear.
The government official shall sit in his pigeon-holed den, the publican
shall recline on his couch in the back-parlor, the burglar shall plan his
midnight raid, the grocer's boy shall take the weekly orders in the kitchen, the
nail-maker shall put his rod back in the fire and take a heated one out in its
The delicate-bred girl shall walk the correct thing in her salmon-pink silk
slashed with blue; the sempstress shall sit in her bare attic straining the last
hour of daylight—and by every stitch done in loyalty of heart shall she sew
for herself a shining garment of deliverance.
The mother shall wear herself out with domestic duties and attending to her
children; she shall have no time to herself, yet before she dies her face shall
shine like heaven.
The Magdalen shall run down to answer the knock at the door, and Jesus her
lover himself shall enter in.


Where the Master is there is paradise.
I know that nothing else shall satisfy you—nothing else has any real
sense at all.
In the antechamber of the body it is vain to tarry; among the forms that
belong to it and are painted upon its walls—beautiful as they all without
one exception are—you shall look in vain for the master.
In the antechamber of the intellect (important as it is) it is vain to
tarry; systems and philosophies, plans and purposes, proofs and arguments, shall
please you for a time; but in the end they shall only contradict and destroy
each other.
In the antechamber of art and morality (important as they are) you shall
not tarry overlong. Here also as in the other chambers though you see the
footsteps of the Master you shall not behold him face to face.
The trees grow in the Garden, but they are not the same as the lord of the
Garden: out of them by themselves come only confusion and conflict and tangling
of roots and branches.

This is the order of Man and all History.
Descending he runs to and fro over the world, and dwells (for a time) among
things that have no sense;
Forgetful of his true self he becomes a self-seeker among shadows.
But out of these spring only war and conflict and tangling of roots and
And things which have no sense succeed things which have no sense—for
nothing can have any sense but by reason of that of which it is the shadow, and
one phantasmal order follows another, and one pleasure or indulgence another,
and one duty or denial another—
Till, bewildered and disgusted, finding no rest, no peace, but everywhere
only disappointment,
He returns (and History returns) seeking for that which is.
Toilsome and long is the journey; shell after shell, envelope after
envelope, he discards.
Over the mountains, over the frowning barriers, undaunted, unwrapping all
that detains him,
Enduring poverty, brother of the outcast and of animals, enduring ridicule
and scorn,
Through vast morasses, by starlight and dawn, through dangers and labors
and nakedness, through chastity and giving away all that he has, through long
night-watches on the mountains and washings in the sunlit streams and sweet food
untainted by blood, through praises and thanks and joy ascending before
All all conventions left aside, all limitations passed, all shackles
dropped—the husks and sheaths of ages falling off—
At length the Wanderer returns to heaven.

Then all those things which have vainly tried to detain him—
When He comes who looks neither to the right nor the left for any of them,
Not being deluded by them but rather threatening to pass by and leave them
all in their places just as they are—
Then they rise up and follow him.
Though thorns and briars before, in his path they now become pleasant
fruits and flowers,
[Not till he has put them from him does be learn the love that is in them;]

Faithful for evermore are they his servants—and faithful is he to
And this world is paradise.


Therefore I say unto ou: Faint not;
Rest here awhile and forgive my foolish prating;
Turn from these words and look again at the work around you, the work you
have to do.
Not for one year or two;
Not for a whim or a passing passion, or for after jealousies and
recriminations, but for something more—
Something to grow in other spheres and to be more precious than the casket
which contains it—
For sovereignty and freedom and the life which is not seen, do we exchange
the ancient language of creation.

And I conjure you, if you would understand me, to crush and destroy these
thoughts of mine which I have written in this book or anywhere;
And my body (if it should be our destiny to meet in battle) I conjure you
faithfully to destroy—nor be afraid—as I will endeavor to destroy
yours: so shall you liberate me to dwell with you.
Spare not, respect not, believe not anything that I have written. Rest not
till you have ground it to smallest meal between your teeth.
And, looking me in the face, accept not anything that I do or say—for
it does not call for acceptation.
Me alone, when you have separated and rejected all these, shall you see and
not reject.


What else (than this) are the dreams of all people and of eras and ages
upon the earth?
What else are the glowing dreams of boyhood, and the toys of age, and the
promises floating ever on before—dim mirages to wayworn travelers? (faint
not, O faint not!)
What else the sound of Christmas hymns across the snow—the tender and
plaintive songs of centuries, dreams of the Better Land—coming down from
before all history?
What the obstinate traditions of races and explorations by sea and land;
the instinct of the chase; searches for the Earthly paradise, Utopias of social
reformers, Eldorados and fabled Islands, stirrings of adventure and conquest;
pilgrimages, myths, and the tireless quest of the Sangreal?
The unquenchable belief in the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone;
the feverish ardor of modern science, like a dog with its nose on the trail?
What else the marvelous dreams of the little creatures walking the
earth—the dreams of religion—the skies peopled, and the vast
cosmogonies of the gods, the huge and impending Otherworld, the mystic scroll of
the Zodiac?
The dim-lit chambers of rock-temples and pyramids and cathedrals—the
ark, the host, and the holy of holies?
The proclamations and gospels of all lands, the giving of fire from the
mosque at Jerusalem, the lighting of innumerable candles; the far-away songs of
the priests by the Nile-strand, standing by the empty sarcophagus with the
words, "Osiris is risen"; the midnight naked dances of the Therapeutae upon the
sands, the processions of salvation armies and revivalists?
The daily life of each man and woman, the ever expected Morrow, the endless
self-seeking, the illusive quests (faint not, O faint not!), the bog-floundering
after fatuous wisps, the tears disappointments and obstinate renewals of
All routes and roads and the myriad moving of feet to and fro over the
What are they but Transparencies of one great fact—symbols of the
innumerable paths
By which the soul returns to paradise?


I BEHELD a vision of Earth with innumerable paths.
I saw the faces that go up and down—the world that each carries

I heard the long roar and surge of History, wave after wave—as of the
never-ending surf along the immense coastline of West Africa.
I heard the world-old cry of the down-trodden and outcast: I saw them
advancing always to victory.
I saw the red light from the guns of established order and
precedent—the lines of defence and the bodies of the besiegers rolling in
dust and blood—yet more and ever more behind!
And high over the inmost citadel I saw magnificent, and beckoning ever to
the besiegers, and the defenders ever inspiring, the cause of all that
never-ending war—
The form of Freedom stand.


I beheld a vision of Earth with innumerable paths;
And I saw, going up and down, the world-old faces of humanity—whom
neither race nor clime nor time greatly alter;
Through barbarisms and civilisations, through agricultural and nomad and
sea-faring, and dwelling in caves and dwelling in palaces, through all manner of
crafts and cunning knowledge and out again, I saw the same old faces go.
The kingly face of duty loyal to the death, looking out upon the world
before ever articulate words were uttered by tongue of man; the face of reason
calm to deal with life;
Faces of tenderness and love, the quivering lips, the mother's breast among
the animals;
The sturdy resolute face I saw, and the transparent eyes of candor like a
stainless lake—when there was no other mirror to look in;
The dear homely ungainly face (before ever there was a tent door to sit
by), the incisive and penetrating face, the laughing erring loving satyr-face of
the child of nature among the woods; and open and unfenced as Nature herself the
face of divine equality;
These I saw going up and down the paths which lead hither and thither from
darkness to darkness.
I saw them in the street to-day, and when I looked beyond the farthest
glimmer of history I saw the same.

And I saw, too, the menacing evil faces, creeping insincere worm-faces,
faces with noses ever on the trail, hunting blankly and always for gain;
Faces of stolid conceit, of puckered propriety, of slobbering vanity, of
damned assurance;
The swift sweep of self-satisfaction beneath the eyelids, set lips of
obstinacy, wrinkled mouth of suspicion, swollen temples of anger—and the
shamed shovel-face of self-indulgence;
These too I saw going up and down the paths which lead hither and thither
from darkness to darkness:
I saw them in the street to-day, and when I looked beyond the farthest
glimmer of history I saw the same.

O faces, whither whither are you going?
What are these paths innumerable leading from darkness to darkness?
Why under so many flags of disguise, under turban and fez and pigtail and
sombrero, plaits of cow-dung and tufts of feathers, Greek arrow and Persian
tiara, and cocked and chimney-pot hat, and head-dresses of gold pieces and straw
and grass, do you (still the same) pass into light and out again—like ships
across the pathway of the moon?


Through the narrow gas lighted lanes of Florence the faces pass, and out of
sight again.
The old Campanile towers overhead into the yet lingering after-glow of
sunset, the stars twinkle faintly already round its head—the memory of 500
years of Florentine life encircles it.
The tower of Galileo stands away off on the hills; but he from it watches
the stars no more—his restless brain grinds no more at the problems of rest
and motion;
The pilgrims of the Haj land in thousands at Jeddah, the route to Mecca is
thronged with corners from all parts of the old world;
The children of the Roman Carnival pelt each other with confetti; the
stream of worshipers into St. Peter's wait each in turn to kiss the toe of the
statue which fell down from heaven; the sacred and bejeweled bambino is taken
out of its altar-cradle and carried in procession through the streets;
By the mouth of the Kolima in the long arctic night while the moon circles
round the sky the Russian exile stands and hungers without hope for the dear
faces of wife and children; the features of the wild Siberyaks are nateful to
his sight;
The Chinese woman—her baby slung on her back—rows and rows the
ferry boat across the river: it is her home and she leaves it neither night nor
The furtive little Londoner with the bottle in her pocket slips back home
from the public house—to drink while her husband is working; the carefully
brushed and buttoned young man walks down Piccadilly;
The bulky red bus driver shouts cheerily to his mates as they pass; he
cries "Cuckoo" in the warm April morning and looks innocently up into the empty
Carriages with high-stepping horses crowd Regent Street; the policeman
stops them and pilots—carries almost—a poor old woman across, very
fragile, light as a little child;
The lame pinched old finder with grizzled hair and prowling eyes wanders
the pavements all day, picking up oddments; he sees neither the houses nor the
sky, neither men nor women; his eyes roll from side to side like one reading a
The lone mother sits in her dreary little shop, eyeing between the prints
in the window the stupid gaping faces of the passers-by as they pause; in the
chamber upstairs her boy lies ill; at long intervals a customer comes in and
throws down a penny—which she puts duly in a teacup;
The country road-mender surveys his length of road with practised eye; he
places marks on gate-posts and trees at intervals to indicate where the
road-metal is to be shot;
The slip-shod old blacksmith prattles away as he rakes the cokes over his
work and blows the bellows with his left hand; every now and then he stops to
light his pipe with a few hot ashes;
On the hearth-side in the fitful glare sits the good-natured great farm-lad
by the hour, enjoying his talk, obscene or otherwise.


At dusk the lamps are lighted in the great cathedral church—lines of
gas fringe within the huge dusky dome mixing with the fading daylight. The hour
of service approaches, the sound of footsteps becomes more frequent; around, the
roar of the great city fades.
The commercial traveler comes in with his parcel and strap, deposits it on
a chair and seats himself beside it; the city man comes with his bag; the
country visitor gazes curiously aloft and around; the tired old piffler and
newsroom loiterer slips in for half-an-hour's sleep; the young English girl,
graceful as a kitten, and her brother sit reverently down; the prostitute also
arrives and chooses her place with discretion.

The shaven-faced verger lights the candles of the great lectern, and the
organ booms slowly forth its first notes—trembling through the spaces of
roof and dome.
The music-teacher leaves her roll of music on the chair, and kneels
downright upon a mat; and the lady with her little boy join in the service;
The ragged wandering-minded old man shuffles in and sits down, muttering to
himself; the young man from the waterworks talks in a low voice to the girl with
whom he is keeping company;
The middle aged man sleeps, with his little girl huddled wide-eyed against
his side; the young mason with clear eyes and stubbly unshaven chin looks round
at the vast columns and carven capitals;
And the sleepy old canon stumbles on through the service, while the
choir-boys wink at the tenors and basses.
In the morning, in the thick January morning, rows of dirty tawny brick
houses stretch all around through the fogs of London—here and there a light
yet lingers in a window.
On the pavements are hurrying mortals with tall hats, bags,
White-faced girls going to work, city men anxiously glancing at the papers
as they go;
The postman with bag over his shoulders and bunch of letters in his hand,
untidy servants sweeping the doorsteps, the butcher's boy in his cart, the
governess going to her lessons;
The milk-carts, brewers' drays, hansom-cabs, the hurried self-absorbed
crowd at the underground station, the skim downstairs, dash for the carriage
doors, and train disappearing forthwith into the tunnel.


O great city of millions scrambling backwards and forwards!—O toiling
careworn millions of the earth!
Pursuing ever shadows shadows, laboring for that which seems to give so
little return:
With tears tears, and short-lived laughter, and the black toad sitting ever
in the heart.

O wanderers returning ever on your tracks—innumerable paths from
darkness to darkness! O specks across the pathway of the moon!
You by the mouth of the Kolima regarding with pale face the great
star-spangled sky—the glory all crossed and blotched with pain;
You hurrying on in the foggy yellow dawn to the dressmaker's gas-reeking
den—or in the filthy back slum dreaming of your childhood and the banks of
You lying anxious at night, weary and broken with business cares ever
closing upon you—you prowling by day the crowded footways:
Come, sit down now at your ease and forget all. Sleep, weary children, and
dream of peace and quiet.
Far have you yet to go, but there is no need to hurry;
What seems the end of your journey now, may-be it is only the beginning;
what terrifies you so in prospect perhaps after all you will pass and hardly be
You with black bag hastening to catch the train, hasten no more: the deed
which you want—which shall declare you free—you will find not at your
Train disappearing into the tunnel, delude the passengers no more with the
promise of reaching their destinations;
Cease prowling the streets, old man! I have seen what you are searching
for: it is safe, and the reward is great—but now rest for a moment.
And you, tight-gloved and booted and with penciled eyes, be not so choice
about your gloves and boots and where you will be seated—for while you are
busy with all these things your lover waits solitary for you.
Lone mother in the dreary little shop, tired child on the way to
paradise—now to thy boy lying dead upstairs
Does the path seem long?—rest here and let us beguile a few moments:
Rest here in mortal form thou that I see enveloped:
Child of sin and sorrow and suffering rest close here.


THE hills stand out in line against the yellow sunset, with snow in the
hollows of their sides: in front stretch green undulating meadows, with trees
and the sound of water, and smoke from cottage chimneys.
O cry aloud over the earth for the children of men, of immortal destinies!

The young farmer in gaiters and thick boots walks miles over the hills to
see his sister at the lunatic asylum. In the visitor's room calm in neat attire
she meets him; they are near the same age. Thankful, with tears, suffused,
reading each other's eyes they sit together hand in hand.
Strange cobwebs cross and cross and cloud her face and mind, yet within her
star-like burns her changeless love for him.
Praying, talking continually of the visions before them, pacing silent and
mechanical up and down the ward, with disheveled hair, with narrow oblique eyes
of suspicion, with animal postures and cries and chatterings and heavy stunned
looks, the poor broken images and wasters of Humanity wait their time.

Now at evening from the meadows and the cottages and the familiar
water-sides exhale tender regrets and memories—compunctions of partings
long past, and faces seen and voices heard no more.
With the odors of evening they arise—from the breast of mortal men and
women exhaled.
By the door thou standest wondering tenderly of him or her who is gone;
presently the doorway shall be empty of thy form, and another shall stand there
wondering of thee.
As thou after thy mother, so she wondered to know of hers, and her mother
again of her who gave her birth;
By chains of tender memory and love encircling the earth are the children
bound to each other—there is not one that escapes.
Whither is the resort of them that pass, and where do the uncounted
generations abide?
In what hollow do they dwell and what valley do they inhabit?—where do
they sleep their invisible sleep, and does the light of the sun awaken them?
Of what they meditated on earth do they dream, and on us do they look with
eyes innumerable as the stars?


O cry aloud over the Earth!
Great ragged clouds wild over the sky careering, pass changing shifting
through my poems!
Blow O breezes, mingle O winds with these words—whose purpose is the
same as yours!
Ye dark ploughed fields and grassy hills, and gorses where the yoldring
warbles—write ye your myriad parallel gossamers among my lines!
Lie out O leaves to the sun and moon, to bleach their quiet gaze—whirl
them O winds—float them away O sea, to drift in bays with the sea-smell and
with odors of tar among the nets of fishermen!
Open O pages in all lands! Let them be free to all to pass in and out, let
them lie like the streets of a great city!
Let them listen and say what the feet of the passengers say, and what the
soughings of the fir trees say. Let them be equal—no more, no
less—writing the words which are written as long as the universe endures.


O cry aloud over the Earth for the children of men, of immortal destinies!

The great orator stands upon the platform,
Careless of approval and careless of opposition he speaks from himself
He is determined and will not abate one tittle of his determination.
The arguments, the pros and cons, he treats lightly—after a time he
dismisses them;
Traditions of science and literature he discusses for a while, and
then—somehow—quietly puts them aside;
Flowers and figures of rhetoric he uses, but presently they fail and fall

From the great rock-bases of his own humanity, of his own imperious
instinct and determination, he appeals with uplifted arm to God and eternal
And from a thousand eyes flash the lightnings of tears and joy, from that
vast sea of faces breaks a roar of terrible and deep-throated accord.
The arguments, the pros and cons, fly high in the air like leaves in a
The tradition of centuries loses its form and outline—like melting ice
in water.
From her deep-implanted seat in the human breast, from behind all reasoning
and science and arguments,
Humanity speaks her Will, and writes a page of History.


As a meteor glides silent for a moment among the fixed stars and is
gone—so among the words of this book glides eluding that other Word which
reveals their significance;
Wonderful, eternal—when these words perish and fall apart from each
other that word shall not perish but return thither whence it sprang.
To see the old sight—and to dream the old dream—the theatre is
The stout matron comes from behind the bar, the clerk slips down from his
half-furnished fireless garret, the lady and gentleman lounge in from their
five-course dinner:
The joiner's apprentice slips off his apron and hurries over his tea and
bread and butter; the dressmaker's girl and the private soldier and the blase
from the club are all there—
Amid the blaze of light and color, between the music and the jokes, the
strange haunting clinging dream is there.
The young buck with coat-sleeves turned up with fur cannot but wait for it
outside the stage door;
The improver goes back next morning to her work, but she cannot rightly see
the box-plaits (as she runs them previous to putting them in the machine); when
she hurries home through the streets at evening she keeps looking to see if what
she caught sight of is there.

On the pavement in the flare of gas the motley crowd goes by; the policeman
stands backed against the gin-shop at the corner, marshaling the buses or
quietly gossiping with cronies.
Off the curb, by her tray of cork and felt socks, weary-eyed, wrapping her
thin shawl close, the elderly woman stands, or tramps to and fro to keep her
feet warm.
Under the great roof in the dockyard slip, amid incessant din, deep in the
bowels of the iron ship, the riveters hammer day by day their red-hot iron
Brown-backed partridges fly across the ploughed land; far above them
motionless the quick-eyed hawk discerns their moving shadows.
White-tunicked Albanian soldiers march across the hills above the beautiful
city and lake of Janina.
Down beside a rippling stream over-shadowed by trees, at midnight the rapt
watcher stands motionless. The stars in slow procession glide westward. They
pass behind the dark tree-boles and emerge again; but he moves not—his
thoughts move not.
Absorbed, the world circles round him, the shackles of existence fall off,
he passes into supreme joy and mastery.
Lo! the rippling stream and the stars and the naked tree-branches deliver
themselves up to him. They come close; they are his body, and his spirit is rapt
among them: without thought he hears what they and all things would say.


Ah! the good news so long sought—the ancient indestructible Gospel!
The little boat sways on the great calm deep, the clouds hang in haze on
the edges—faint and far is the land.
Faint and far are the mountains, and the forests where the sun sleeps at
Ah! the good news desired of men—the dreams of so many ages!

Who has seen that land? who has floated on that ocean?
For the earth is round and many ships sail its seas and innumerable feet
traverse its lands, and great are its thunderclouds piled in the air:
But who yet has truly walked its lands and who has floated on its seas and
who has been the worthy companion of those its clouds piled so magnificent in
the air?

The ships lie in the harbor, behind them stretches the far sea-horizon and
the round ocean curving into other latitudes;
The breeze floats gently off shore bearing the clouds on its bosom, and
feeling among the folds of the flags;
The chrysanthemums stand crowded in the cottage garden, and the
promontories rear their heads mute over the sea—not one moment before their
due time do they speak.
Being transformed, being transformed into Thy likeness—passing the
Passing the boundaries of evil, being delivered, being filled with joy;
Drinking out of the great lake that can never be emptied—having come
to its shores—of the great inland ocean of joy that laves all mortal
Sitting down there under the trees, watching the birds that fly a little
way out over it, watching the wild creatures that come down to drink also of it;

Sitting on the quay among the bales and spars, and taking stock of the
ships that are waiting to sail, and the travelers that leave and arrive, seeing
the breeze also floating gently the folds of the flags;
Content, overjoyed, knowing that I have yet far to go; but that all is open
and free, and that Thou wilt provide—
Gladly O gladly I surrender myself to Thee.


Lo! the stress, the immortal passion, the dashing against the barriers of
self, the ever-widening of the bounds;
The endless contest, the melancholy haughty Titanic and lonely struggle of
the soul;
The ecstatic deliverance, the bursting of the sac, the outrush and
innumerable progeny!

Lo! the healing power descending from within, calming the confused mind,
spreading peace among the quivering nerves;
Lo! the eternal Savior, the sought after of all the world, dwelling hidden
(yet to be disclosed) within each;
The haunting clinging dream, the theme and long refrain of ages, O joy
Casting out types through all creation, tentative, loose notes and motifs,
Sleeping in the bosom of the hills before ever the naked foot of man trod
among them,
Dwelling in mighty fir and oak, giants of the forest, and in the tiny life
which springs about their roots,
Time out of mind immeasurable, standing behind the night and
stars—inhabiting the wheeling earth—
Lo, all as at random, thrown forth!

[The old Red Indian walks the silent-wooded wildernesses—hundreds and
scores of hundreds of miles are familiar to him;
Like an ancient rock full of lines, weatherworn impassive is his
face—the stars are his well-known friends.
The young Zulu with feathers on his head and wildcat tails around his
loins, and carriage erect and proud as an emu, joins the gathering of
warriors—he seems to push the earth from beneath him as he walks.]


I behold the broad expanse of life over the earth—
I see the stalwart aborigines straying naked through the primal woods,
light-footed amid the grass; I hear their powerful cries and calls to each
other, resounding from cliffs and gullies;
I see the civilised man in his study among his books, or driving with his
lady along the boulevards; I see the well-dressed crowds of Paris and New York;
I see the famished and raging mobs of incendiaries;
The long vain fight of man against Nature I see, not traveling hand in hand
with but setting himself in opposition to her: the necessary prologue and
apprenticeship—as of a wayward boy against his mother—yet vanquished,
finally and surely vanquished;
All well; and I see there is no need to hurry.

I behold well-pleased the broad expanse of life over the earth; I see the
great factories, with smoke in the early morning—the hands coming in to
work; the lines of shops along the principal streets of cities—the piers
and wharves with those who toil on them;
I see the great broad pleasure of life among the millions, the energy, the
scheming, planning, and the solid execution of plans;
The ties of marriage, friendship, heroic actions, dreams, adventures;
I see also the sufferings, the hardships, the hatred, the sin and misery,
the clenched teeth, the evil of everything that is established and exists, and
the need that it should be overthrown;
I take part in these too—they are well. I see the incessant change in
society, the gaunt desperate problems which attend it in every stage,
And the great problem which for each man stands behind these
problem—the open secret which unlooses them, dissolves them at a touch, as
a drop of water dissolves a flake of snow.


I behold well-pleased the broad expanse of life over the earth—nor is
there anything in it which is not good.
All results in the great constitution of things are provided for, nor is it
possible in all the fantastic freaks of Nature and of Man for anything to
surpass its proper boundary or to fail of its due fruition.
Water does not lie level by a more inevitable law; into this great ocean
(of the soul) all things at length return.
Free, free is the going and coming of so many feet; the kid-gloved
fur-mantled lady sitting bible in hand among the poor is free to come and go;
So is the young thief—with his heavy burden of concealment, his weary
eluding eyes yet not eluding, his face unlighted with laughter—free to come
and go; (I do not scorn, I do not blame you—you are the same to me as the
others are, and what you can take of me that you are free to;)
The selfish, the brave, the vain, the foolish may come and go, but whether
they come or whether they go the results are secured to them of all they do.
For a long time walking the earth, threading an immense and seemingly
endless labyrinth, returning on our own tracks as in dreams and sleep-walking,
with eyes open but seeing not, following some mirage, something ever receding
and eluding—always about to clutch it.
Occupied in business, with affairs—thinking this important and that
important, vexed to compass this or that end—caught by the leg in the trap
which we ourselves have laid;
Caught by ambition, envy, greed; owners of wealth and lying awake at night
with anxiety over it, driving herds of cattle and swallowing the dust thereof,
planning houses and building us our own prisons—
We go.
There is no bar. The paths are all open, the sign-posts few—each must
find the clue for himself, the exit from the labyrinth.

For a long time walking the earth as in a dream there is no clue, only
Then presently also as in a dream it all clears up; the insoluble and
varied problems which constitute ordinary life disappear entirely leaving no
traces—and Life in every direction is navigable as space to the rays of the


O come with me, my soul—follow the inevitable call follow the call of
the great sky overarching you.
Disentangling the cobwebs of all custom and supposed necessity—the
ancient cocoon in which humanity has lain so long concealed—
Pass forth, Thou, into the serene light: along the hills, by the clumps of
overhanging trees, through the doorways of all mortal life, pass thou redeemed,


SO after many wanderings, after long ages resuming the broken thread,
After wandering over the earth for many years—with the Red Indian from
mountain to mountain, from river to river;
With the Tartar and Malaysian, the Teuton and the Celt; with the emigrant
and the exile and the settler wandering; with the Norsemen in their ships to the
shores of Iceland and America;
Embracing new climates, customs, times—being constrained by none,
hindered by none;
After many times lying down to sleep and rising again—after many times
entering into the mother's womb:
The Sleeper says to him that awakens him:—
"Ah! beautiful one—ah! prince of love, so many times with thy fingers
touching in vain my closed lids!

Now at last thy love pouring in upon me has found an entrance, and filling
my body breaks the bounds of it and bursts forth back again into the regions
whence thou comest.
Ah! prince of love, lord of heaven, most beautiful one, of thee I am
enamored and overcome with love;
Here amid the grass once more a child sitting—watching the trembling
stamens sway against the distant landscape;
Beholding all life and finding it good—being satisfied;
Pouring out the wine of my life to Thee—being transformed into thy
I depart—never again thus and thus to return.

Henceforth when summer burns on the high ground where the breezes
play—where Thou passest as a flame, transforming the trees yet not
consuming them, I will follow thee.
When night hangs crowded with stars I will ascend with Thee the unknown
gulfs and abysses.

Spread, O earth, with blue lines of distant hills—stretch for the feet
of men and all creatures!
Sing, chant your hymns, O trees and winds and grass and immeasurable blue!
Being transformed being transformed into Thy likeness—lord of heaven
and earth!
Being filled with love, having completed our pilgrimage,
We also pass into peace and joy eternal."

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