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  ― 32 ―

Mute Discourse.

“Fulmina.… cœlo nulla sereno.”—LUCRETIUS.

GOD speaks by silence. Voice-dividing man,
Who cannot triumph but he saith, Aha—
Who cannot suffer without Woe is me—
Who, ere obedience follow on the will,
Must say, Thou shalt—who, looking back, saith Then,
And forward, Then; and feebly nameth, Now,
His changing foothold 'twixt eternities;
Whose love is pain until it finds a voice—
Whose seething anger bubbles in a curse—
Who summarizes truth in party-cries,
And bounds the universe with category,—
This word-dividing, speech-preëminent man,
Deeming his Maker even as himself,
Must find Him in a voice ere he believe.
We fret at silence, and our turbulent hearts
Say, “If He be a God He will speak out.”
We rail at silence, and would fain disturb
The duly ordered course of signless years.
We moan at silence, till our quivering need



  ― 33 ―
Becomes incarnate, and our sore desire
Passes into a voice. Then say we, “Lo,
He is, for He hath spoken; thus and thus
He said.”
So ever radiating self,
Conditioning a God to our degree,
We make a word the top of argument—
Fond weaklings we, whose utmost scope and goal
Is but a pillared formula, whereon
To hang the garlands of our faith and love.
Well was it in the childhood of the world
To cry for open vision and a voice:
But in the riper time, when we have reached
The kindly heart of universal law,
And safe assurance of essential good,
Say, rather, now that had there been no God,
There had been many voices, freaks of sound,
Capricious thunders in unclouded skies,
Portentous utterance on the trembling hills
And Pythian antics in oracular caves—
Yea, signs and wonders had been multiplied,
And god succeeded god, the latest ever
Lord-paramount, until the crazèd world
Had lost its judgment 'mid contending claims.
O men! It is the child's heart in the man's
That will not rest without a lullaby—
That will not trust the everlasting arm
Unless it hear the voice in tale or song.
It is the child's heart in the man's that seeks,
In elements of old Semitic thought,
And wondrous syllables of Grecian tongue,



  ― 34 ―
Recorded witness of another way
Of things than that which God hath willed to be
Our daily life. And if in times of old
The child-heart caught at wonder, and the charm
Of sundered system—if untutored faith
Found confirmation in arrested suns,
And gnomon-shadows of reverted hours,
And in the agonized Thus saith the Lord
Of mantled seers with fateful burden bowed—
We, children of a clearer, purer light
(Despising not the day of smaller things,
Nor calling out to kick the ladder foot
Because our finger-tips have verged on rest)—
We, youths, whose spring brings on the lawful hope
To loose the girdle of the maiden Truth,—
We, men, whose joyous summer morn hath heard
The marriage bell of Reason and of Faith—
We, turning from the windy ways of the world,
And gazing nearly on the silent march
Of love in law, and law in love, proclaim
“In that He works in silence He is God!”
So, from the very permanence of things,
And voiceless continuity of love,
Unmixed with human passion, fretted not
By jealousy, impatience, or revenge,
We gather courage, and confirm our faith.
So, casting back the scoffer's words, we say,
Even because there is no fitful sign,
And since our fathers fell asleep all things
Continue as at first—this wonder of no change
Reputes the God, to whom a thousand years



  ― 35 ―
Are as one day. Yea, to the willing ear,
The dumb supremacy of patience speaks
Louder than Sinai. And if yet we lack
The witness and the voucher of a voice,
What hindereth that we who stand between
The living Nature and the living God,
Between them, yet in both—their ministers—
By noble life and converse pure, should be
Ourselves the very voice of God on earth,
Living epistles, known and read of all?
O Brothers! Were we wholly soul-possessed
With this Divine regard—would we but soar
Beyond the cloud, and centralize our faith
Upon the stable sun—would we reject
Kaleidoscopic views of broken truth
Distorted to the turn of perverse will—
Make daylight through traditionary ranks
Of intervening hells, and fix the eye
Upon the shining heart of Supreme Love,—
Would we… But why prolong the bootless “would”?—
I, who know all the weakness and the fear,
The weary ways of labyrinthine doubt,
The faintness on the dizzy height—who lack
The Gabriel-pinion wherewithal to range
The unsupporting medium of pure sky—
Who know the struggle of the natural soul,
Breathing a finer ether than its own—
Who, venturing on specular power too vast,
Scathed by my own reflector, fall down blind;
Who, at the least wind of calamity,



  ― 36 ―
Drag shiftlessly the anchor of my hope,
And, shrieking from the waves, catch gladly at
A Name and Sake wherewith to close a prayer!
Yet though I faint and fail, I may not take
My weakness for the Truth, nor dare misread
The manual sign of God upon the heart,
The pledge, beyond the power of any voice,
Of sure advance unto the perfect whole;
Nor treat the tablet-tracing of His hand
As it were some old tombstone left apart
In grave-yard places for the years to hide
Deep in irrelevant and noxious growth.
Oh, Brothers! push the weeds aside, lay bare
The monument, and clear the earthy mould
From the Divine intaglio. Read thereon
The uncancelled charter of your native hope,
Nor crave articulate thunders any more,
Read there the universal law of good;
Unqualified evangel; blessedness,
The birthright of all being; peace, that lends
No weak subscription unto sin, and yet
Disarms despair. Read, and believe no more
In final triumph of concreted sin
In any soul that cometh forth from God,
And lives, and moves, and hath its being in Him.
Read thus, and pray the while that he who writes
Reck his own rede.
Oh, Sister, would I bruise
The snowy petals of thy prayerful faith,
Or chill the tendril-twinings of thy hope
With evil influence of wintry scorn?



  ― 37 ―
Would God that any faith of mine could give
Such quiet stability unto my feet
As thine to thine! Oh, if thy kneeling wakes
A smile at all, 'tis Heaven that smiles because
Thou ask'st so little! God will o'erfulfil
Thy dreams of silver with unmeted gold.
Oh, Sister, though thou dost believe in wrath,
Though shapes of woe flit through thine imagery,
Though thou has ta'en the cloud into thy faith,
The little rift of blue that breaks thy dark
Brings thee more comfort and more fixèd hope
Than unto me this cloudless open vast
Wherein my soul floats weary and alone!
Yet think not we are voyaging apart
To different havens. Truth is one. Yet One
Alone hath reached it in straight course. Each soul
Hath its own track, its currents, and its gales;
And each toward sequel of attainment must
Fetch many a compass. Some keep land in view—
The beacon-hills of old authority—
And draw assurance from a shore defined,
Though it be dire with cloud, and capes of wrath;
While some shoot boldly into perilous seas—
Pacific-seeming seas, yet not without
A weary loneliness of land forsook,
And fear of sudden cyclone, and still more
Deceitful calm. Or, if the metaphor
Be yet too cruel for a sister's heart,
Oh, think that in the common way of love
We are never out of hearing; but may each,
Whene'er we will, join hand with each, and say,



  ― 38 ―
“God—Father—Love,” the triune sum of truth,
And Watchword of the universal Christ.
Sister, I think, and in the thought take heart,
That when the Day of Reconcilement comes,
As come it will, the all-transmuting Truth
May find affinities in things that seem
To us the very elements of war.
Dost thou remember how, in childhood's days,
One gave us with to recognize the south
By turning faceward to the mid-day sun;
And we believed, and took the facile plan
For unexceptioned law? But even now
I hear the chime of Austral noon, and, lo,
The sun is in the north? Yet 'tis the same
Bright sun that shone and shines upon us both,
On me the evil, and on thee the good;
Yea, more, it is the same, noon-glaring here,
That now with hints of orient twilight steals
Over the stillness of thy morning dreams.
Dost thou remember how in those old days,
The dear old days that ne'er may come again—
Though love, like history, repeats itself,
But with the larger feature, stronger hand,
And keener sense, evoked of common grief—
When we would scan the circling mountain-cope
That made our little valley all a world,
One taught our young unlearnèd lips to say,
“The Sensible Horizon;” then dissolved
Our bounded dream, and showed our widening minds
That this was not the limit of the truth,
But grew from our own petty finitude; and far



  ― 39 ―
In unconceived remote another line,
Yet only in concession named a line,
“The Rational,” made space intelligible,
And gave relation to the stars. Yet not
The less our early mountain-narrowed sky
Was still the sky to us, cloud, storm, and all.
Oh take my parable, and fondly think
That though the years have brought me wider range,
And shifting zeniths been my law of life,
Did thou and I yet tread the native vale,
I not the less, beneath that homely sky,
Would point to it whene'er we spoke of heaven.

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