Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 3. ARENZANO, by EDWARD CARPENTER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 3. ARENZANO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the great church over the little fishing-village
Last Line: And join the ave maria, ave, ave.
Subject(s): Churches; Public Worship; Religion; Cathedrals; Church Attendance; Theology

IN the great Church over the little fishing-village,
In the gloom of evening and of the spacious interior—only a few
candles lighted over a side altar—
[The great doors wide open to the twilight over the bay, with silhouettes
of figures entering, and continual tread of feet upon the stone floor]—
There in the dusk the fisher-wives kneel and pray:
Ave Maria, ave, ave.
A great throng, hardly visible, with shawls thrown over their
heads—and men and children:
Ave Maria, ave, ave.

The long monotonous semi-savage refrain and wash of voices,
Unending, like the rhythm of the sea itself,
The untrained choir, the rise suspense and breaking of the wave of trebles,
the answer of the basses in passionate iteration—the mesmeric
The great Christ over the main altar, half lost in gloom, with arms
outstretched, and crucified,
The faint sweet smell of incense,
The long Past:

The long Past from which it all comes—
Strange voices and refrains,
As from the coasts of Tyre, and the worship of Ashtoreth,
Or this is Isis the ever-virgin Madonna and her infant Horus—one with
the Virgin of the stars—
Or this the antiphonal music of the psalms
Within the Jewish Temple.

The same great needs of human life all down the ages—
Each tiny drop to feel the living wave it forms a part of;
Dear Love; and Death; the narrow clear-cut bounded present, the dread
Unknown, the children clinging to each other—
Not one that dies, not one the waves engulf,
But tears and agony to those remaining.

Ah! who can tell and who can see the end?
Man that art God yet perishest as grass!
I sit here in a corner of thy world-old temple—
(Here in this old fishing-village just as much as anywhere else)—
In the dark unknown unnoticed I sit,
And hear the ceaseless sounding of Thy Sea,
And join the Ave Maria, ave, ave.

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