Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 2. AMONG THE FERNS, by EDWARD CARPENTER

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TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 2. AMONG THE FERNS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I lay among the ferns
Last Line: Death shall change as the light 'twixt moonset and dawn.
Subject(s): Equality; Flowers; Gardens & Gardening; Love; Nature

I LAY among the ferns,
Where they lifted their ironds, innumerable, in the greenwood wilderness,
like wings winnowing the air;
And their voices went past me continually.

And I listened, and lo! softly inaudibly raining I heard not the voices of
the ferns only, but of all living creatures:
Voices of mountain and star,
Of cloud and forest and ocean,
And of the little rills tumbling amid the rocks,
And of the high tops where the moss-beds are and the springs arise.
As the wind at mid-day rains whitening over the grass,
As the night-bird glimmers a moment fleeting between the lonely watcher and
the moon,
So softly inaudibly they rained,

Where I sat silent

And in the silence of the greenwood I knew the secret of the growth of the
I saw their delicate leaflets tremble breathing an undescribed and
unuttered life;
And, below, the ocean lay sleeping;
And round them the mountains and the stars dawned in glad companionship for
And a voice came to me, saying:
In every creature, in forest and ocean, in leaf and tree and bird and beast
and man, there moves a spirit other than its mortal own,
Pure, fluid, as air—intense as fire,
Which looks abroad and passes along the spirits of all other creatures,
drawing them close to itself,
Nor dreams of other law than that of perfect equality;
And this is the spirit of immortality and peace.

And whatsoever creature hath this spirit, to it no harm may befall:
No harm can befall, for wherever it goes it has its nested home, and to it
every loss comes charged with an equal gain;
It gives—but to receive a thousand-fold;
It yields its life—but at the hands of love;
And death is the law of its eternal growth.

And I saw that was the law of every creature—that this spirit should
enter in and take possession of it,
That it might have no more fear or doubt or be at war within itself any
And lo! in the greenwood all around me it moved,
Where the sunlight floated fragrant under the boughs, and the fern-fronds
winnowed the air;
In the oak-leaves dead of last year, and in the small shy things that
rustled among them
In the songs of the birds, and the broad shadowing leaves overhead;
In the fields sleeping below, and in the river and the high dreaming air;
Gleaming ecstatic it moved—with joy incarnate.
And it seemed to me, as I looked, that it penetrated all these things,
suffusing them;
And wherever it penetrated, behold! there was nothing left down to the
smallest atom which was not a winged spirit instinct with life.

Who shall understand the words of the ferns lifting their fronds
What man shall go forth into the world, holding his life in his open
With high adventurous joy from sunrise to sunset—
Fearless, in his sleeve laughing, having outflanked his enemies?
His heart like Nature's garden—that all men abide in—
Free, where the great winds blow, rains fall, and the sun shines,
And manifold growths come forth and scatter their fragrance?
Who shall be like a grave, where men may bury
Sin and sorrow and shame, to rise in the new day
Glorious out of their grave? who, deeply listening,
Shall hear through his soul the voices of all creation,
Voices of mountain and star, voices of all men,
Softly audibly raining?—shall seize and fix them,
Rivet them fast with love, no more to lose them?
Who shall be that spirit of deep fulfilment,
Himself, self-centred? yet evermore from that centre
Over the world expanding, along all creatures
Loyally passing—with love, in perfect equality?

Him immortality crowns. In him all sorrow
And mortal passion of death shall pass from creation.
They who sit by the road and are weary shall rise up
As he passes. They who despair shall arise.

Who shall understand the words of the ferns winnowing the air?
Death shall change as the light in the morning changes;
Death shall change as the light 'twixt moonset and dawn.

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