And there I found him whom I went to find,
A man of noble make and head uplift,
Of equal carriage, Nature’s bounteous gift;
For in no shelter had his generous mind
Grown flowers that need the winds, rough not unkind.
The joiner’s bench taught him, with judgment swift,
Seen things to fashion, unseen things to sift;
From all his face a living soul outshined,
Telling of strength and inward quietude;
His great hand shook mine greatly, and his eyes
Looked straight in mine with spiritual replies:
I left him, rich with overflowing good.
Such joys within two hours of happy mood,
Met me beneath the everlasting skies.
(Exodus xxxiii. 18-23.)
“I do beseech Thee, God, show me thy face.”
“Come up to me in Sinai on the morn:
Thou shalt behold as much as may be borne.”
And Moses on a rock stood lone in space.
From Sinai’s top, the vaporous, thunderous place,
God passed in clouds, an earthly garment worn
To hide, and thus reveal. In love, not scorn,
He put him in a cleft in the rock’s base,
Covered him with his hand, his eyes to screen,
Then passed, and showed his back through mists of years.
Ah, Moses! had He turned, and hadst thou seen
The pale face crowned with thorns, baptized with tears,
The eyes of the true man, by men belied,
Thou hadst beheld God’s face, and straightway died.
If Thou hadst been a sculptor, what a race
Of forms divine had ever preached to men!
Lo, I behold thy brow, all glorious then,
(Its reflex dawning on the statue’s face)
Bringing its Thought to birth in human grace,
The soul of the grand form, upstarting, when
Thou openest thus thy mysteries to our ken,
Striking a marble window through blind space.
But God, who mouldeth in life-plastic clay,
Flashing his thoughts from men with living eyes,
Not from still marble forms, changeless alway,
Breathed forth his human self in human guise:
Thou didst appear, walking unknown abroad,
The son of man, the human, subject God.
“There, Buonarotti, stands thy statue.
Possession of the form; inherit it;
Go forth upon the earth in likeness fit;
As with a trumpet-cry at morning, wake
The sleeping nations; with light’s terror, shake
The slumber from their hearts; and, where they sit,
Let them leap up aghast, as at a pit
Agape beneath.” I hear him answer make:
“Alas! I dare not; I could not inform
That image; I revered as I did trace;
I will not dim the glory of its grace,
Nor with a feeble spirit mock the enorm
Strength on its brow.” Thou cam’st, God’s thought thy form,
Living the large significance of thy face.