I am older than Nature and her Time
By all the timeless age of Consciousness,
And my adult oblivion of the clime
Where I was born makes me not countryless.
Ay, and dim through my daylight thoughts escape
Yearnings for that land where my childhood dreamed,
Which I cannot recall in colour or shape
But haunts my hours like something that hath gleamed
And yet is not as light remembered,
Nor to the left or to the right conceived;
And all round me tastes as if life were dead
And the world made but to be disbelieved.
Thus I my hope on unknown truth lay; yet
How but by hope do I the unknown truth get?
I do not know what truth the false untruth
Of this sad sense of the seen world may own,
Or if this flowered plant bears also a fruit
Unto the true reality unknown.
But as the rainbow, neither earth’s nor sky’s,
Stands in the dripping freshness of lulled rain,
A hope, not real yet not fancy’s, lies
Athwart the moment of our ceasing pain.
Somehow, since pain is felt yet felt as ill,
Hope hath a better warrant than being hoped;
Since pain is felt as aught we should not feel
Man hath a Nature’s reason for having groped,
Since Time was Time and age and grief his measures,
Towards a better shelter than Time’s pleasures.
My weary life, that lives unsatisfied
On the foiled off-brink of being e’er but this,
To whom the power to will hath been denied
And the will to renounce doth also miss;
My sated life, with having nothing sated,
In the motion of moving poisèd aye,
Within its dreams from its own dreams abated—
This life let the Gods change or take away.
For this endless succession of empty hours,
Like deserts after deserts, voidly one,
Doth undermine the very dreaming powers
And dull even thought’s active inaction,
Tainting with fore-unwilled will the dreamed act
Twice thus removed from the unobtained fact.
The edge of the green wave whitely doth hiss
Upon the wetted sand. I look, yet dream.
Surely reality cannot be this!
Somehow, somewhere this surely doth but seem!
The sky, the sea, this great extent disclosed
Of outward joy, this bulk of life we feel,
Is not something, but something interposed.
Only what in this is not this is real.
If this be to have sense, if to be awake
Be but to see this bright, great sleep of things,
For the rarer potion mine own dreams I’ll take
And for truth commune with imaginings,
Holding a dream too bitter, a too fair curse,
This common sleep of men, the universe.
How yesterday is long ago! The past
Is a fixed infinite distance from to-day,
And bygone things, the first-lived as the last,
In irreparable sameness far away.
How the to-be is infinitely ever
Out of the place wherein it will be Now,
Like the seen wave yet far up in the river,
Which reaches not us, but the new-waved flow!
This thing Time is, whose being is having none,
The equable tyrant of our different fates,
Who could not be bought off by a shattered sun
Or tricked by new use of our careful dates.
This thing Time is, that to the grave will bear
My heart, sure but of it and of my fear.
The world is woven all of dream and error
And but one sureness in our truth may lie—
That when we hold to aught our thinking’s mirror
We know it not by knowing it thereby.
For but one side of things the mirror knows,
And knows it colded from its solidness.
A double lie its truth is; what it shows
By true show’s false and nowhere by true place.
Thought clouds our life’s day-sense with strangeness, yet
Never from strangeness more than that it’s strange
Doth buy our perplexed thinking, for we get
But the words’ sense from words—knowledge, truth, change.
We know the world is false, not what is true.
Yet we think on, knowing we ne’er shall know.
We are in Fate and Fate’s and do but lack
Outness from soul to know ourselves its dwelling,
And do but compel Fate aside or back
By Fate’s own immanence in the compelling.
We are too far in us from outward truth
To know how much we are not what we are,
And live but in the heat of error’s youth,
Yet young enough its acting youth to ignore.
The doubleness of mind fails us, to glance
At our exterior presence amid things,
Sizing from otherness our countenance
And seeing our puppet will’s act-acting strings.
An unknown language speaks in us, which we
Are at the words of, fronted from reality.
Something in me was born before the stars
And saw the sun begin from far away.
Our yellow, local day on its wont jars,
For it hath communed with an absolute day.
Through my Thought’s night, as a worn robe’s heard trail
That I have never seen, I drag this past
That saw the Possible like a dawn grow pale
On the lost night before it, mute and vast.
It dates remoter than God’s birth can reach,
That had no birth but the world’s coming after.
So the world’s to me as, after whispered speech,
The cause-ignored sudden echoing of laughter.
That ‘t has a meaning my conjecture knows,
But that ‘t has meaning’s all its meaning shows.
Even as upon a low and cloud-domed day,
When clouds are one cloud till the horizon,
Our thinking senses deem the sun away
And say “’tis sunless” and “there is no sun”;
And yet the very day they wrong truth by
Is of the unseen sun’s effluent essence,
The very words do give themselves the lie,
The very thought of absence comes from presence:
Even so deem we through Good of what is evil.
He speaks of light that speaks of absent light,
And absent god, becoming present devil,
Is still the absent god by essence’ right.
The withdrawn cause by being withdrawn doth get
(Being thereby cause still) the denied effect.
My soul is a stiff pageant, man by man,
Of some Egyptian art than Egypt older,
Found in some tomb whose rite no guess can scan,
Where all things else to coloured dust did moulder.
Whate’er its sense may mean, its age is twin
To that of priesthoods whose feet stood near God,
When knowledge was so great that ’twas a sin
And man’s mere soul too man for its abode.
But when I ask what means that pageant I
And would look at it suddenly, I lose
The sense I had of seeing it, nor can try
Again to look, nor hath my memory a use
That seems recalling, save that it recalls
An emptiness of having seen those walls.