Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 2. YORK MINISTER, by EDWARD CARPENTER



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TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 2. YORK MINISTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Solid and ghostly in the pale winter morning
Last Line: To sit and sing—for pure joy simply to sit and sing!
Subject(s): Christianity; Churches; Democracy; God; Humanity; Nations; Cathedrals


SOLID and ghostly in the pale winter morning—
Thy vast floor worn, worn by the tiny foot-falls of centuries,
The great grey Alps, thy columns, cutting sharply their strong lines
against the delicate tracery of roof and window—
Solid and ghostly, in visionary beauty thou stretchest O nave,
All desolate—vast and desolate

The murmurs of the outer world tremble faintly along the roof like the
murmur of the sea in some vast sea-shell;
Below, nothing visible moves save one ancient verger, pacing to and fro or
drowsing in his armchair by the stove.

But hark now; from behind the screen the droning mumble of morning prayers!

It ceases, and the thin boy-voices of the scanty choir take up the chant.
Strangely from its invisible source, like some river once running strong
but now losing itself in runlets in the sand,
As from out the old mediaeval world, faint and fai comes sounding that
refrain—
The quaint barbaric tentative uncertain-toned Gregoric refrain, soaring,
Soaring, soaring, through the great desolate nave wandering, in the ears of
the one drowsy verger dying.

And all around over the world spreads winter,
Heavy and silent;
There is no music heard in the streets, nor sound of hope or of
pleasuring—but pinched faces are there,
And in wretched homes reign cold and starvation.

The Church is dead. Snow covers the ground. Silence and heavy misery spread
their wings dull against the faces of the people. The Church is dead.
All the long years of Christianity have come to this; All the preaching and
the prayers and the psalm-singing of centuries have come to this;
All the rapt outpourings of the soul to God, and hidden yearnings of ages,
to this?
The Church is dead. Snow covers the ground. Snug in their firelit homes,
with closed shutters and surrounded by every luxury, the Wealthy the Pious and
the Respectable sit—
And without, the People are dying of cold and starvation.

A nation is dying—
Dying slowly and surely of Unbelief—and there can be no deadlier
disease: no plague of the middle ages, no cholera epidemic, deadlier.
A nation is dying—
Rotting down piece-meal, lethargic even in its misery, weary and careworn
even in its luxury, to the grave.

And I sit and sing.
All the dark winter night, and though the night were ten times pitchier
than it is,
I sit and sing.
Though the gloom spread all around me, though the wan pinched faces plead
terribly upon me, in the midst still I sit and sing: Joy! Joy!—for I have
seen;
Deep in the wide wan eyes I have seen:
And what I have seen—is sufficient.

O what lies deeper far than the life and death of nations—
As the calm Ocean lies deep below the storms which vex its surface;
What all the ages and ages of human life on earth has never never failed;
What is to humanity as the sun rising in the morning is to nature—
Ever fresh and young and potent, creating new worlds for itself as it were
by merely looking forth upon them;
What rises winged out of all graves—with laughter—leaving the
long vistas of corpses behind; and out of the graves of nations;
What for each man rises out of his own grave, and is never vanquished;
Deep deep—below all words—in the eyes of these wan children,
I have seen—and that is sufficient.

O the fresh fresh air blowing!
Here on the summit of this leafless poplar, under the immense night, while
the tender growing light just outlines the distant hills,
To sit and sing—for pure joy simply to sit and sing!





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