Verse > Anthologies > George Willis Cooke, ed. > The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology
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George Willis Cooke, comp.  The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology.  1903.
 
Hymn to the God of Stars
By Eliza Thayer Clapp (1811–1888)
 
  GOD of those splendid stars! I need
    Thy presence, need to know
  That thou art God, my God indeed.
    Cold and far off they shine, they glow,
In their strange brightness, like to spirit’s eyes,        5
Awful, intensely on my naked soul;
Beautiful are they, but so strange, so cold,
I know them not: I shrink, I cling
Like a scared insect to this whirling ball,
Upon whose swelling lines I woke one morn,        10
Unknowing who I was or whence I came;
And still I know not: fastened to its verge
By a resistless power, with it I speed
On its eternal way, and those strange eyes,
Those starry eyes, look ever on me thus;        15
I wake, I sleep, but still they look on me,
Mild yet reproachful, beautiful but strange.
Visions are round me,—many moving things,
In clothing beautiful, soft and colored forms
With drooping heads caressing; eyes so meek        20
And loving and appealing, but they hold
A nature strange and different, each enwrapt
In its own mortal mystery: near they are,
And yet how distant,—familiar, fond,
Yet strangers all! I know not what they are.        25
 
And higher forms, from out whose mystic eyes,
Gracefully curved and vestal-like, obscured
By shading lashes, looks a being out,
That seems myself and is not,—kindred linked,
Yet most communionless: I know them not,        30
Nor they know me; nearest, yet most apart,
Moving in saddest mystery each to each,
Like spellbound souls that coldly meet in dreams
Which in some waking hour had intertwined.
 
Yet some, too, woven with me in a veil,        35
Viewless, but all-enduring,—kindred love:
Their eyes are on me like awakening light;
They touch my forehead, press my given hand,
Smile rare or oft, or sit most silently;
Yet all is understood,—the watchful care,        40
The sympathetic joy, and the unutterable wealth
Of helping tears,—all, all is understood:
Sure these are me; sure my affections, theirs,
Awe-stricken thoughts and over-rushing sins,
My hopes, my loves, my struggles, and my straits        45
Are theirs to bear, to know, to carry out,
To sift, to learn, to war and wrestle through,
Ah, no! oh, no! for every spirit round
There is a circle where no other comes.
Even when we lay our head upon the breast,        50
And pour our thoughts as liquid jewels out,
And feel the strength that comes from soul beloved
Steal through our own as steals the living heat,
Nurture and bloom into the opening leaves;
Yet is the spirit lone,—its problem deep        55
No other may work out; its mystic way
No other wing may try: passionate hopes,
Mighty yet powerless, and most awful fears,
Its strength ne’er equal to the burden laid,
Longings to stop, yet eagerness to go,        60
Is its alone; a wall unscalable
Circuits the soul,—its fellows cannot pass;
The mother may not spoil the child, to take
The youthful burden on her willing heart,
Nor friend enfranchise friend. Alone, alone        65
The soul must do its own immortal work;
The best beloved most distant are; the near
Far severed wide. Soul knows not soul,
Not more than these unanswering stars divine.
 
    God of these stars sublime! I need        70
      Thy presence, need to know
    That thou art God, my God indeed.
Shield me, ’mid thine innumerable worlds;
Give me some point where I may rest,
    While thy unceasing ages flow;        75
Hide me from thine irradiated stars,
And the far sadder light, untraceable
Of human eyes; for strangers are they all,
A wandering thought on the resistless air;
A questioning wail o’er the unlistening sea.        80
Recall, Eternal Source! and reassume
In thine own essence peace unutterable!
 
 
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