DECEMBER 28, 1879.
A dim, vague shrinking haunts my soul,
My spirit bodeth ill–
As some far-off restraining bank
Had burst, and waters, many a rank,
Were marching on my hill;
As if I had no fire within
For thoughts to sit about;
As if I had no flax to spin,
No lamp to lure the good things in
And keep the bad things out.
The wind, south-west, raves in the pines
That guard my cottage round;
The sea-waves fall in stormy lines
Below the sandy cliffs and chines,
And swell the roaring sound.
The misty air, the bellowing wind
Not often trouble me;
The storm that’s outside of the mind
Doth oftener wake my heart to find
More peace and liberty.
Why is not such my fate to-night?
Chance is not lord of things!
Man were indeed a hapless wight
Things, thoughts occurring as they might–
The man of moods might merely say
As by the fire he sat,
“I am low spirited to-day;
I must do something, work or play,
Lest care should kill the cat!”
Not such my saw: I was not meant
To be the sport of things!
The mood has meaning and intent,
And my dull heart is humbly bent
To have the truth it brings.
This sense of needed shelter round,
This frequent mental start
Show what a poor life mine were found,
To what a dead self I were bound,
How feeble were my heart,
If I who think did stand alone
Centre to what I thought,
A brain within a box of bone,
A king on a deserted throne,
A something that was nought!
A being without power to be,
Or any power to cease;
Whom objects but compelled to see,
Whose trouble was a windblown sea,
A windless sea his peace!
This very sadness makes me think
How readily I might
Be driven to reason’s farthest brink,
Then over it, and sudden sink
In ghastly waves of night.
It makes me know when I am glad
‘Tis thy strength makes me strong;
But for thy bliss I should be sad,
But for thy reason should be mad,
But for thy right be wrong.
Around me spreads no empty waste,
No lordless host of things;
My restlessness but seeks thy rest;
My little good doth seek thy best,
My needs thy ministerings.
‘Tis this, this only makes me safe–
I am, immediate,
Of one that lives; I am no waif
That haggard waters toss and chafe,
But of a royal fate,
The born-child of a Power that lives
Because it will and can,
A Love whose slightest motion gives,
A Freedom that forever strives
To liberate his Man.
I live not on the circling air,
Live not by daily food;
I live not even by thinkings fair,
I hold my very being there
Where God is pondering good.
Because God lives I live; because
He thinks, I also think;
I am dependent on no laws
But on himself, and without pause;
Between us hangs no link.
The man that lives he knows not how
May well fear any mouse!
I should be trembling this same now
If I did think, my Father, thou
Wast nowhere in the house!
O Father, lift me on thine arm,
And hold me close to thee;
Lift me into thy breathing warm,
Then cast me, and I fear no harm,
Into creation’s sea!