Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 192. En Soph
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
192. En Soph
By Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy  (1844–1881)
Prayer of the Soul on entering Human Life

EN SOPH, uncomprehended in the thought
  Of man or angel, having all that is
In one eternity of Being brought
  Into a moment: yet with purposes,
Whence emanate those lower worlds of Time,        5
And Force, and Form, where man, with one wing caught
In clogging earth, angels in freer clime,
  From partial blindness into partial sight,
Strive, yearn, and, with an inward hope sublime,
  Rise ever; or, mastered by down-dragging might,       10
  And groping weakly with an ill-trimmed light,
Sink. quenched;
  En Soph was manifest, as dim
And awful as upon Egyptian throne
  Osiris sits; but splendour covered Him;       15
And circles of the Sephiroth tenfold,
Vast and mysterious, intervening rolled.
And lo! from all the outward turning zones,
  Before Him came the endless stream of souls
Unborn, whose destiny is to descend       20
  And enter by the lowest gate of being.
And each one coming, saw, on written scrolls
  And semblances that he might comprehend,
The things of Life and Death and Fate—which seeing,
  Each little soul, as quivering like a flame       25
It paled before that splendour, stood and prayed
  A piteous, fervent prayer against the shame
And ill of living, and would so have stayed
  A flame-like emanation as before,
Unsullied and untried. Then, as he ceased       30
  The tremulous supplication, full of sore
Foreboding agony to be released
  From going on the doubtful pilgrimage
Of earthly hope and sorrow, for reply
  A mighty angel touched his sight, to close,       35
Or nearly close, his spiritual eye,
  So he should look on luminous things like those
No more till he had learned to live and die.
And when the pure bright flame, my soul, at last
  Passed there in turn, it flickered like them all;       40
But oh! with some surpassing sad forecast
  Of more than common pains that should befall
The man whose all too human heart has bled
  With so much love and anguish until now.
And has not broken yet, and is not dead,       45
  And shaken as a leaf in autumn late,
Tormented by the wind, my soul somehow
  Found speech and prayed like this against my Fate:
The pure flame pent within the fragile form
  Will writhe with inward torments; blind desires,       50
Seizing, will whirl me in their frenzied storm,
  Clutching at shreds of heaven and phantom fires.
A voice, in broken ecstasies of song,
  Awakening mortal ears with its high pain,
Will leave an echoing agony along       55
  The stony ways and o’er the sunless plain,
While men stand listening in a silent throng.
And all the silences of life and death,
  Like doors closed on the thing my spirit seeks,
Importuning each in turn, will freeze the breath       60
  Upon my lips, appal the voice that speaks;
Until the silence of a human heart
  At length, when I have wept there all my tears,
Poured out my passion, given my stainless part
  Of heaven to hear what maybe no man hears,       65
Will work a woe that never can depart.
Oh, let me not be parted from the light,
  Oh, send me not to where the outer stars
Tread their uncertain orbits, growing less bright,
  Cycle by cycle; where, through narrowing bars,       70
The soul looks up and scarcely sees the throne
  It fell from; where the stretched-out Hand that guides
On to the end, in that dull slackening zone
  Reaches but feebly; and where man abides,
And finds out heaven with his heart alone.       75
I fear to live the life that shall be mine
  Down in the half lights of that wandering world,
Mid ruined angels’ souls that cease to shine,
  Where fragments of the broken stars are hurled,
Quenched to the ultimate dark. Shall I believe,       80
  Remembering, as of some exalted dream,
The life of flame, the splendour that I leave?
  For, between life and death, shall it not seem
The fond false hope my shuddering soul would weave?…
So prayed I, feeling even as I prayed       85
  Torments and fever of a strange unrest
Take hold upon my spirit, fain to have stayed
  In the eternal calm, and ne’er essayed
The perilous strife, the all too bitter test
  Of earthly sorrows, fearing—and ah! too well—       90
To be quite ruined in some grief below,
  And ne’er regain the heaven from which I fell.
But then the angel smote my sight—’twas so
  I woke into this world of love and woe.



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