Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
Ceremonial Ode Intended for a University
By Lascelles Abercrombie (1881–1938)
WHEN from Eternity were separate
    The curdled element
And gathered forces, and the world began,—
The Spirit that was shut and darkly blent
Within this being, did the whole distress        5
With a blind hanker after spaciousness.
Into its wrestle, strictly tied up in Fate
And closely natured, came like an open’d grate
    At last the Mind of Man,
Letting the sky in, and a faculty        10
To light the cell with lost Eternity.
So commerce with the Infinite was regain’d:
    For upward grew Man’s ken
And trode with founded footsteps the grievous fen
Where other life festering and prone remain’d.        15
With knowledge painfully quarried and hewn fair,
Platforms of lore, and many a hanging stair
Of strong imagination Man has raised
His Wisdom like the watch-towers of a town;
    That he, though fasten’d down        20
In law, be with its cruelty not amazed,
But be of outer vastness greatly aware.
This, then, is yours: to build exultingly
    High, and yet more high,
The knowledgeable towers above base wars        25
And sinful surges reaching up to lay
Dishonouring hands upon your work, and drag
From their uprightness your desires to lag
Among low places with a common gait.
That so Man’s mind, not conquer’d by his clay,        30
    May sit above his fate,
Inhabiting the purpose of the stars,
And trade with his Eternity.

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