Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 200. The World-Spirit
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
200. The World-Spirit
By Edward Carpenter  (b. 1844)
  
LIKE soundless summer lightning seen afar,
  A halo o’er the grave of all mankind,
O undefinèd dream-embosomed star,
  O charm of human love and sorrow twined:
 
Far, far away beyond the world’s bright streams,        5
  Over the ruined spaces of the lands,
Thy beauty, floating slowly, ever seems
  To shine most glorious; then from out our hands
 
To fade and vanish, evermore to be
  Our sorrow, our sweet longing sadly borne,       10
Our incommunicable mystery
  Shrined in the soul’s long night before the morn.
 
Ah! in the far fled days, how fair the sun
  Fell sloping o’er the green flax by the Nile,
Kissed the slow water’s breast, and glancing shone       15
  Where laboured men and maidens, with a smile
Cheating the laggard hours; o’er them the doves
  Sailed high in evening blue; the river-wheel
Sang, and was still; and lamps of many loves
  Were lit in hearts, long dead to woe or weal.       20
 
And, where a shady headland cleaves the light
  That like a silver swan floats o’er the deep
Dark purple-stained Aegean, oft the height
  Felt from of old some poet-soul upleap,
 
As in the womb a child before its birth,       25
  Foreboding higher life. Of old, as now,
Smiling the calm sea slept, and woke with mirth
  To kiss the strand, and slept again below.
 
So, from of old, o’er Athens’ god-crowned steep
  Or round the shattered bases of great Rome,       30
Fleeting and passing, as in dreamful sleep,
  The shadow-peopled ages go and come:
 
Sounds of a far-awakened multitude,
  With cry of countless voices intertwined,
Harsh strife and stormy roar of battle rude,       35
  Labour and peaceful arts and growth of mind.
 
And yet, o’er all, the One through many seen,
  The phantom Presence moving without fail,
Sweet sense of closelinked life and passion keen
  As of the grass waving before the gale.       40
 
What art Thou, O that wast and art to be?
  Ye forms that once through shady forest-glade
Or golden light-flood wandered lovingly,
  What are ye? Nay, though all the past do fade
Ye are not therefore perished, ye whom erst       45
  The eternal Spirit struck with quick desire,
And led and beckoned onward till the first
  Slow spark of life became a flaming fire.
 
Ye are not therefore perished: for behold
  To-day ye move about us, and the same       50
Dark murmur of the past is forward rolled
  Another age, and grows with louder fame
 
Unto the morrow: newer ways are ours,
  New thoughts, new fancies, and we deem our lives
New-fashioned in a mould of vaster powers;       55
  But as of old with flesh the spirit strives,
 
And we but head the strife. Soon shall the song
  That rolls all down the ages blend its voice
With our weak utterance and make us strong;
  That we, borne forward still, may still rejoice,       60
 
Fronting the wave of change. Thou who alone
  Changeless remainest, O most mighty Soul,
Hear us before we vanish! O make known
  Thyself in us, us in Thy living whole.

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