Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
By Alfred Noyes (1880–1958)
IN the beginning, there was nought
  But heaven, one Majesty of Light,
Beyond all speech, beyond all thought,
  Beyond all depth, beyond all height,
Consummate heaven, the first and last,        5
  Enfolding in its perfect prime
No future rushing to the past,
  But one rapt Now, that knew not Space or Time.
Formless it was, being gold on gold,
  And void—but with that complete Life        10
Where music could no wings unfold
  Till lo, God smote the strings of strife!
‘Myself unto Myself am Throne,
  Myself unto Myself am Thrall!
I that am All am all alone,’        15
  He said, ‘Yea, I have nothing, having all.’
And, gathering round His mount of bliss
  The angel-squadrons of His will,
He said, ‘One battle yet there is
  To win, one vision to fulfil!        20
Since heaven where’er I gaze expands,
  And power that knows no strife or cry,
Weakness shall bind and pierce my hands
  And make a world for Me wherein to die.
All might, all vastness and all glory        25
  Being mine, I must descend and make
Out of my heart a song, a story
  Of little hearts that burn and break;
Out of my passion without end
  I will make little azure seas,        30
And into small sad fields descend
  And make green grass, white daisies, rustling trees.’
Then shrank His angels, knowing He thrust
  His arms out East and West and gave
For every little dream of dust        35
  Part of his Life as to a grave!
‘Enough, O Father, for thy words
  Have pierced thy hands!’ But low and sweet,
He said ‘Sunsets and streams and birds,
  And drifting clouds!’—The purple stain’d his feet.—        40
‘Enough!’ His angels moan’d in fear,
  ‘Father, thy words have pierced thy side!’
He whisper’d ‘Roses shall grow there,
  And there must be a hawthorn-tide,
And ferns, dewy at dawn,’ and still        45
  They moan’d—Enough, the red drops bleed!
‘And,’ sweet and low, ‘on every hill,’
  He said, ‘I will have flocks and lambs to lead.’
His angels bow’d their heads beneath
  Their wings till that great pang was gone:        50
Pour not thy soul out unto Death!
  They moan’d, and still his Love flow’d on,
‘There shall be small white wings to stray
  From bliss to bliss, from bloom to bloom,
And blue flowers in the wheat; and—’ ‘Stay!        55
  Speak not,’ they cried, ‘the word that seals thy tomb!’
He spake—‘I have thought of a little child
  That I will have there to embark
On small adventures in the wild,
  And front slight perils in the dark;        60
And I will hide from him and lure
  His laughing eyes with suns and moons,
And rainbows that shall not endure;
  And—when he is weary sing him drowsy tunes.’
His angels fell before Him weeping,        65
  ‘Enough! Tempt not the Gates of Hell!’
He said ‘His soul is in his keeping
  That we may love each other well,
And lest the dark too much affright him,
  I will strew countless little stars        70
Across his childish skies to light him
  That he may wage in peace his mimic wars
And oft forget Me as he plays
  With swords and childish merchandise,
Or with his elfin balance weighs,        75
  Or with his foot-rule metes, the skies;
Or builds his castles by the deep,
  Or tunnels through the rocks, and then—
Turn to Me as he falls asleep,
  And, in his dreams, feel for My hand again.        80
And when he is older he shall be
  My friend and walk here at My side;
Or—when he wills—grow young with Me,
  And, to that happy world where once we died
Descending through the calm blue weather,        85
  Buy life once more with our immortal breath,
And wander through the little fields together,
  And taste of Love and Death.’

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