Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
From the Night of Forebeing
By Francis Thompson (1859–1907)
An Ode after Easter

CAST wide the folding doorways of the East,
For now is light increased!
And the wind-besom’d chambers of the air,
See they be garnish’d fair;
And look the ways exhale some precious odours,        5
And set ye all about wild-breathing spice,
Most fit for Paradise.
Now is no time for sober gravity,
Season enough has Nature to be wise;
But now discinct, with raiment glittering free,        10
Shake she the ringing rafters of the skies
With festal footing and bold joyance sweet,
And let the earth be drunken and carouse!
For lo, into her house
Spring is come home with her world-wandering feet,        15
And all things are made young with young desires;
And all for her is light increased
In yellow stars and yellow daffodils,
And East to West, and West to East,
Fling answering welcome-fires,        20
By dawn and day-fall, on the jocund hills
And ye, wing’d minstrels of her fair meinie,
Being newly coated in glad livery,
Upon her steps attend,
And round her treading dance and without end        25
Reel your shrill lutany.
What popular breath her coming does out-tell
The garrulous leaves among!
What little noises stir and pass
From blade to blade along the voluble grass!        30
O Nature, never-done
Ungaped-at Pentecostal miracle,
We hear thee, each man in his proper tongue
Break, elemental children, break ye loose
From the strict frosty rule        35
Of grey-beard Winter’s school.
Vault, O young winds, vault in your tricksome courses
Upon the snowy steeds that reinless use
In coerule pampas of the heaven to run;
Foal’d of the white sea-horses,        40
Wash’d in the lambent waters of the sun.
Let even the slug-abed snail upon the thorn
Put forth a conscious horn!
Mine elemental co-mates, joy each one;
And ah, my foster-brethren, seem not sad—        45
No, seem not sad,
That my strange heart and I should be so little glad.
Suffer me at your leafy feast
To sit apart, a somewhat alien guest,
And watch your mirth,        50
Unsharing in the liberal laugh of earth;
Yet with a sympathy,
Begot of wholly sad and half-sweet memory—
The little sweetness making grief complete;
Faint wind of wings from hours that distant beat,        55
When I, I too,
Was once, O wild companions, as are you,
Ran with such wilful feet.
A higher and a solemn voice
I heard through your gay-hearted noise;        60
A solemn meaning and a stiller voice
Sounds to me from far days when I too shall rejoice,
Nor more be with your jollity at strife.
Hark to the Jubilate of the bird
For them that found the dying way to life!        65
And they have heard,
And quicken to the great precursive word;
Green spray showers lightly down the cascade of the larch;
The graves are riven,
And the Sun comes with power amid the clouds of heaven!        70
Before his way
Went forth the trumpet of the March;
Before his way, before his way
Dances the pennon of the May!
O earth, unchilded, widow’d Earth, so long        75
Lifting in patient pine and ivy-tree
Mournful belief and steadfast prophecy,
Behold how all things are made true!
Behold your bridegroom cometh in to you,
Exceeding glad and strong.        80
Raise up your eyes, O raise your eyes abroad!
No more shall you sit sole and vidual,
Searching, in servile pall,
Upon the hieratic night the star-seal’d sense of all:
Rejoice, O barren, and look forth abroad!        85
Your children gather’d back to your embrace
See with a mother’s face.
Look up, O mortals, and the portent heed;
In very deed,
Wash’d with new fire to their irradiant birth,        90
Reintegrated are the heavens and earth!
From sky to sod,
The world’s unfolded blossom smells of God.
And thou up-floatest, warm, and newly-bathed,
Earth, through delicious air,        95
And with thine own apparent beauties swathed,
Wringing the waters from thine arborous hair;
That all men’s hearts, which do behold and see,
Grow weak with their exceeding much desire,
And turn to thee on fire,        100
Enamour’d with their utter wish of thee,
What vine-outquickening life all creatures sup,
Feel, for the air within its sapphire cup
How it does leap, and twinkle headily!        105
Feel, for Earth’s bosom pants, and heaves her scarfing sea;
And round and round in bacchanal rout reel the swift spheres intemperably!
My little-worlded self! the shadows pass
In this thy sister-world, as in a glass,
Of all processions that revolve in thee:        110
Not only of cyclic Man
Thou here discern’st the plan,
Not only of cyclic Man, but of the cyclic Me.
Not solely of Mortality’s great years
The reflex just appears,        115
But thine own bosom’s year, still circling round
In ample and in ampler gyre
Toward the far completion, wherewith crown’d,
Love unconsumed shall chant in his own furnace-fire.
How many trampled and deciduous joys        120
Enrich thy soul for joys deciduous still,
Before the distance shall fulfil
Cyclic unrest with solemn equipoise!
Happiness is the shadow of things past,
Which fools still take for that which is to be!        125
And not all foolishly:
For all the past, read true, is prophecy,
And all the firsts are hauntings of some Last,
And all the springs are flash-lights of one Spring.
Then leaf, and flower, and fall-less fruit        130
Shall hang together on the unyellowing bough;
And silence shall be Music mute
For her surchargèd heart. Hush thou!
These things are far too sure that thou should’st dream
Thereof, lest they appear as things that seem.        135
Shade within shade! for deeper in the glass
Now other imaged meanings pass;
And as the man, the poet there is read.
Winter with me, alack!
Winter on every hand I find:        140
Soul, brain, and pulses dead;
The mind no further by the warm sense fed,
The soul weak-stirring in the arid mind …
Giver of spring,
And song, and every young new thing!        145
Thou only seëst in me, so stripp’d and bare,
The lyric secret waiting to be born,
The patient term allow’d
Before it stretch and flatteringly unfold
Its rumpled webs of amethyst-freak’d, diaphanous gold.        150
And what hard task abstracts me from delight,
Filling with hopeless hope and dear despair
The still-born day and parchèd fields of night,
That my old way of song, no longer fair,
For lack of serene care,        155
Is grown a stony and a weed-choked plot,
Thou only know’st aright,
Thou only know’st, for I know not.
How many songs must die that this may live!
And shall this most rash hope and fugitive,        160
Fulfill’d with beauty and with might
In days whose feet are rumorous on the air,
Make me forget to grieve
For songs which might have been, nor ever were?
Stern the denial, the travail slow,        165
The struggling wall will scantly grow:
And though with that dread rite of sacrifice
Ordain’d for during edifice,
How long, how long ago!
Into that wall which will not thrive        170
I build myself alive,
Ah, who shall tell me will the wall uprise?
Thou wilt not tell me, who dost only know!
Yet still in mind I keep,
He which observes the wind shall hardly sow,        175
He which regards the clouds shall hardly reap.
Thine ancient way! I give,
Nor wit if I receive;
Risk all, who all would gain: and blindly. Be it so.
*        *        *        *        *
Nature, enough! within thy glass        180
Too many and too stern the shadows pass.
In this delighted season, flaming
For thy resurrection-feast,
Ah, more I think the long ensepulture cold,
Than stony winter roll’d        185
From the unseal’d mouth of the holy East;
The snowdrop’s saintly stoles less heed
Than the snow-cloister’d penance of the seed.
’Tis the weak flesh reclaiming
Against the ordinance        190
Which yet for just the accepting spirit scans.
Earth waits, and patient heaven,
Self-bonded God doth wait
Thrice-promulgated bans
Of his fair nuptial-date.        195
And power is man’s,
With that great word of ‘wait’,
To still the sea of tears,
And shake the iron heart of Fate.
In that one word is strong        200
An else, alas, much-mortal song;
With sight to pass the frontier of all spheres,
And voice which does my sight such wrong.
Not without fortitude I wait
The dark majestical ensuit        205
Of destiny, nor peevish rate
Calm-knowledged Fate.
I, that no part have in the time’s bragg’d way,
And its loud bruit;
I, in this house so rifted, marr’d,        210
So ill to live in, hard to leave;
I, so star-weary, over-warr’d,
That have no joy in this your day—
Rather foul fume englutting, that of day
Confounds all ray—        215
But only stand aside and grieve;
I yet have sight beyond the smoke,
And kiss the god’s feet, though they wreak
Upon me stroke and again stroke;
And this my seeing is not weak.        220
The Woman I behold, whose vision seek
All eyes and know not; t’ward whom climb
The steps o’ the world, and beats all wing of rhyme,
And knows not; ’twixt the sun and moon
Her inexpressible front enstarr’d        225
Tempers the wrangling spheres to tune;
Their divergent harmonies
Concluded in the concord of her eyes,
And vestal dances of her glad regard.
I see, which fretteth with surmise        230
Much heads grown unsagacious-grey,
The slow aim of wise-hearted Time,
Which folded cycles within cycles cloak:
We pass, we pass, we pass; this does not pass away,
But holds the furrowing earth still harness’d to its yoke.        235
The stars still write their golden purposes
On heaven’s high palimpsest, and no man sees,
Nor any therein Daniel; I do hear
From the revolving year
A voice which cries:        240
‘All dies;
Lo, how all dies! O seer,
And all things too arise:
All dies, and all is born;
But each resurgent morn, behold, more near the Perfect Morn.’        245
Firm is the man, and set beyond the cast
Of Fortune’s game, and the iniquitous hour,
Whose falcon soul sits fast,
And not intends her high sagacious tour
Or ere the quarry sighted; who looks past        250
To slow much sweet from little instant sour,
And in the first does always see the last.

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