Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
577. Quest
 
From “Corda Concordia”
 
By Edmund Clarence Stedman
 
 
    WHERE broods the Absolute,
    Or shuns our long pursuit
By fiery utmost pathways out of ken?
    Fleeter than sunbeams, lo,
    Our passionate spirits go,        5
And traverse immemorial space, and then
  Look off, and look in vain, to find
The master-clew to all they left behind.
 
    White orbs like angels pass
    Before the triple glass,        10
That men may scan the record of each flame,—
    Of spectral line and line
    The legendry divine,—
Finding their mould the same, and aye the same,
  The atoms that we knew before        15
Of which ourselves are made,—dust, and no more.
 
    So let our defter art
    Probe the warm brain, and part
Each convolution of the trembling shell:
    But whither now has fled        20
    The sense to matter wed
That murmured here? All silence, such as fell
  When to the shrine beyond the Ark
The soldiers reached, and found it void and dark.
 
    Seek elsewhere, and in vain        25
    The wings of morning chain;
Their speed transmute to fire, and bring the Light,
    The co-eternal beam
    Of the blind minstrel’s dream;
But think not that bright heat to know aright,        30
  Nor how the trodden seed takes root,
Waked by its glow, and climbs to flower and fruit.
 
    Behind each captured law
    Weird shadows give us awe;
Press with your swords, the phantoms still evade;        35
    Through our alertest host
    Wanders at ease some ghost,
Now here, now there, by no enchantment laid,
  And works upon our souls its will,
Leading us on to subtler mazes still.        40
 
    We think, we feel, we are;
    And light, as of a star,
Gropes through the mist,—a little light is given;
    And aye from life and death
    We strive, with indrawn breath,        45
To somehow wrest the truth, and long have striven,
  Nor pause, though book and star and clod
Reply, Canst thou by searching find out God?
 
    As from the hollow deep
    The soul’s strong tide must keep        50
Its purpose still. We rest not, though we hear
    No voice from heaven let fall,
    No chant antiphonal
Sounding through sunlit clefts that open near;
  We look not outward, but within,        55
And think not quite to end as we begin.
 

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