The eye was shut in men; the hearing ear
Dull unto deafness; nought but earthly things
Had credence; and no highest art that flings
A spirit radiance from it, like the spear
Of the ice-pointed mountain, lifted clear
In the nigh sunrise, had made skyey springs
Of light in the clouds of dull imaginings:
Vain were the painter or the sculptor here.
Give man the listening heart, the seeing eye;
Give life; let sea-derived fountain well,
Within his spirit, infant waves, to tell
Of the far ocean-mysteries that lie
Silent upon the horizon,—evermore
Falling in voices on the human shore.
So highest poets, painters, owe to Thee
Their being and disciples; none were there,
Hadst Thou not been; Thou art the centre where
The Truth did find an infinite form; and she
Left not the earth again, but made it be
One of her robing rooms, where she doth wear
All forms of revelation. Artists bear
Tapers in acolyte humility.
O Poet! Painter! soul of all! thy art
Went forth in making artists. Pictures? No;
But painters, who in love should ever show
To earnest men glad secrets from God’s heart.
So, in the desert, grass and wild flowers start,
When through the sand the living waters go.
So, as Thou wert the seed and not the flower,
Having no form or comeliness, in chief
Sharing thy thoughts with thine acquaintance Grief;
Thou wert despised, rejected in thine hour
Of loneliness and God-triumphant power.
Oh, not three days alone, glad slumber brief,
That from thy travail brought Thee sweet relief,
Lay’st Thou, outworn, beneath thy stony bower;
But three and thirty years, a living seed,
Thy body lay as in a grave indeed;
A heavenly germ dropt in a desert wide;
Buried in fallow soil of grief and need;
’Mid earthquake-storms of fiercest hate and pride,
By woman’s tears bedewed and glorified.
All divine artists, humble, filial,
Turn therefore unto Thee, the poet’s sun;
First-born of God’s creation, only done
When from Thee, centre-form, the veil did fall,
And Thou, symbol of all, heart, coronal,
The highest Life with noblest Form made one,
To do thy Father’s bidding hadst begun;
The living germ in this strange planet-ball,
Even as thy form in mind of striving saint.
So, as the one Ideal, beyond taint,
Thy radiance unto all some shade doth yield,
In every splendour shadowy revealed:
But when, by word or hand, Thee one would paint,
Power falls down straightway, speechless, dim-eyed, faint.