Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EAGLE-SPIRIT, by SAMUEL VALENTINE COLE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

AN EAGLE-SPIRIT, by                
First Line: God's truth hath many voices; sun and star
Last Line: "than banish god; we build our hopes on that."
Subject(s): Edwards, Jonathan (1703-1758)


GOD'S truth hath many voices; sun and star,
And mountain, and the deep that rolls afar,
Speak the great language; and, of mightier worth,
The lips and lives of Godlike men on earth.


For truth wrought out in human life wields power
Which no truth else does—since man's natal hour.
What were the world without the long, strong chain
Of faithful witnesses, whose heart and brain
Have throbbed with truth God gave them? without these
Who, as with hands that link together, stand
Reaching across the years to that dear Hand
Which touched blind eyes to sight, wrote on the sand,
And lifted Peter from the drowning seas?
Who, better than through book, or hymn, or creed,
Draw down their living line the fire we need
Of life from Him who is the Life indeed!


A good man's work is of his time and place
Where Duty lifts the fulness of her face;
Translate it elsewhere and you do him wrong:
His life, his spirit—what of great and fair
And true was in him—oh, that doth belong
To all the ages and dwells everywhere!


And there he stands, this nobly-moulded man;
You cannot miss him if you turn and scan
The land's horizon; howsoe'er men talk,
He still is of us; no mere name; a rock
The floods may beat upon nor wash away;
Foregatherer of the times, his loftier height
Flushed with the gleams of sweetness and of light
That wait their fulness till some later day;
An eagle spirit soaring in the sky
And mingling with the things that cannot die.

How full of fire he was and how sincere,
Soldier of faith and conscience without fear!
And humble as the little springtime flower
Opening its heart out to the Heavenly Power;
Poet, and dreamer of the things to be;
A man of Godly vision;—such was he,
This Dante of New England, who descried
The dread Inferno of man's sin and pride;
The Purgatorio where his eyes might trace
The workings out and upward of God's grace;
And yet who clomb with happier step the slope
Of man's aspiring and undying hope
Toward Paradiso, there to find his goal
At last—the Blessed Vision of the Soul!


All this he was, whatever be the name
He goes by on the roll of earthly fame.
We judge him as we would ourselves alway
Be judged; as Christ will judge the world one day;
Not by things done, however great they be,
But by those longings which immortally
Outrun achievement since the world began;
Yea, by the spirit in him; that's the man.


What though the vain world scoffed and paths grew dim,
He knew one Master, and he followed Him.
He wielded truth to meet the age's stress
Of circumstance, nor made it truth the less.
Truth is a sword that flashes, now this way,
Now that, the single purpose to obey.
Nay, truth is large; no man hath seen the whole;
Larger than words; it brooks not the control
Of argument and of distinctions nice;
No age or creed can hold it, no device
Of speech or language; ay, no syllogism:
Truth is the sun, and reasoning is the prism
You lift before it; whence the light is thrown
In various colors; each man takes his own.
If this man takes the red, as you the blue,
Is yours the whole? and is his truth not true?
Spirit is truth, howe'er the colors fall;
The fact comes back to spirit after all.


Secure, invincible, the man who dare
Obey his vision—mark what courage there!—
Dare take the sword of his belief in hand,
Whole-hearted face the world with it, and stand,
And mind not sacrifice, and count fame dross,
For truth's dear sake, and life and all things loss,
And never dream of failure, never doubt
What issue when the stars of God come out!


And would that we had power like him to rise
Clear of the thraldom of all compromise,
Like him whose feet on this foundation stood,—
That God is sovereign and that God is good.
Is such a creed outworn? And tell me, pray,
Have we no use for it? Alas the day,
Amid the things that savor of the sod,
If men forget the sovereign rights of God—
The true life's master-word is still, Obey.


The man who takes "an inward sweet delight
In God," shines like a candle in the night;
The world's black shadow of care and doubt and sin
Is beaten backward by that power within;
He walks in freedom; neither time nor place
Can fetter such a spirit; in his face
A light, not of this earth, forever clings;
For, when he will, strong spiritual wings
Bear him aloft till silent grows all strife,
Silent the tumult and the toil of life;
The homes of men, far off, like grains of sand
Lie strewn along the wrinkles of the land,
All silent; not a sound or breath may rise
To mar the eternal harmony of those skies
Through which he goes, still higher, toward the line
Where sun and moon have no more need to shine;
And there, where sordid feet have never trod,
He walks in joy the tablelands of God.


How much he hath to teach us even yet,
Lest life should kill us with its toil and fret!
Things of the earth men seek to have and hold;
They build and waste again their mounds of gold.
O me! the din of life, the bell that peals,
The traffic, and the roaring of the wheels!
Work grows, and glows, and satisfies us not;
Weary we are of what our hands have wrought,
Weary of action with no time for thought.
The much we do—how little it must count
Without some pattern shown us in the mount!


Who seeks and loves the company of great
Ideals, and moves among them, soon or late
Will learn their ways and language, unaware
Take on their likeness, ay, and some day share
Their immortality, as this man now
Before whose life we reverently bow.


So shines the lamp of Edwards; still it sends
One golden beam down the long track of years,
This resolute truth which neither yields nor spends,—
That life, true life, is not of what appears,
Not of the things the world piles wide and high;
'Tis of the spirit and will never die.


His life was noble; wherefore let the day
White with his memory shine beside the way—
Adding its comfort to our human need—
Like some fair tablet whereon men may read:
"Lo, here and there, great witnesses appear,—
The meek, the wise, the fearless, the sincere;
They live their lives and witness to the word;
No time so evil but their voice is heard;
Nor sword nor flame can stop them; though they die
They grow not silent; they must cry their cry;
Time's many a wave breaks, dying, on the shore;
They cry forever and forevermore;
For, in and through such men as these men are,
God lives and works, and it were easier far
To dry the seas and roll the mountains flat
Than banish God; we build our hopes on that."

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