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Poem by Edward Dowden


On the Heights


    Here are the needs of manhood satisfied!
    Sane breath, an amplitude for soul and sense,
    The noonday silence of the summer hills,
    And this embracing solitude; oer all
    The sky unsearchable, which lays its claim,--
    A large redemption not to be annulled,--
    Upon the heart; and far below, the sea
    Breaking and breaking, smoothly, silently.
    What need I any further? Now once more
    My arrested life begins, and I am man
    Complete with eye, heart, brain, and that within
    Which is the centre and the light of being;
    O dull! who morning after morning chose
    Never to climb these gorse and heather slopes
    Cairn-crowned, but last within one seaward nook
    Wasted my soul on the ambiguous speech
    And slow eye-mesmerism of rolling waves,
    Courting oblivion of the heart. True life
    That was not which possessed me while I lay
    Prone on the perilous edge, mere eye and ear,
    Staring upon the bright monotony,
    Having let slide all force from me, each thought
    Yield to the vision of the gleaming blank,
    Each nerve of motion and of sense grow numb,
    Till to the bland persuasion of some breeze,
    Which played across my forehead and my hair,
    The lost volition would efface itself,
    And I was mingled wholly in the sound
    Of tumbling billow and upjetting surge,
    Long reluctation, welter and refluent moan,
    And the reverberating tumultuousness
    Mid shelf and hollow and angle black with spray.
    Yet under all oblivion there remained
    A sense of some frustration, a pale dream
    Of Nature mocking man, and drawing down,
    As streams draw down the dust of gold, his will,
    His thought and passion to enrich herself
    The insatiable devourer.

                             Welcome earth,
    My natural heritage! and this soft turf,
    These rocks which no insidious ocean saps,
    But the wide air flows over, and the sun
    Illumines. Take me, Mother, to thy breast,
    Gather me close in tender, sustinent arms,
    Lay bare thy bosoms sweetness and its strength
    That I may drink vigour and joy and love.
    Oh, infinite composure of the hills!
    Thou large simplicity of this fair world,
    Candour and calmness, with no mockery,
    No soft frustration, flattering sigh or smile
    Which masks a tyrannous purpose; and ye Powers
    Of these sky-circled heights, and Presences
    Awful and strict, I find you favourable,
    Who seek not to exclude me or to slay,
    Rather accept my being, take me up
    Into your silence and your peace. Therefore
    By him whom ye reject not, gracious Ones,
    Pure vows are made that haply he will be
    Not all unworthy of the world; he casts
    Forth from him, never to resume again,
    Veiled nameless things, frauds of the unfilled heart,
    Fantastic pleasures, delicate sadnesses,
    The lurid, and the curious, and the occult,
    Coward sleights and shifts, the manners of the slave,
    And long unnatural uses of dim life.
    Hence with you! Robes of angels touch these heights
    Blown by pure winds and I lay hold upon them.

    Here is a perfect bell of purple heath,
    Made for the sky to gaze at reverently,
    As faultless as itself, and holding light,
    Glad air and silence in its slender dome;
    Small, but a needful moment in the sum
    Of Gods full joy--the abyss of ecstasy
    Oer which we hang as the bright bow of foam
    Above the never-filled receptacle
    Hangs seven-hued where the endless cataract leaps.

    O now I guess why you have summoned me,
    Headlands and heights, to your companionship;
    Confess that I this day am needful to you!
    The heavens were loaded with great light, the winds
    Brought you calm summer from a hundred fields,
    All night the stars had pricked you to desire,
    The imminent joy at its full season flowered,
    There was a consummation, the broad wave
    Toppled and fell. And had ye voice for this?
    Sufficient song to unburden the urged breast?
    A pastoral pipe to play? a lyre to touch?
    The brightening glory of the heath and gorse
    Could not appease your passion, nor the cry
    Of this wild bird that flits from bush to bush.
    Me therefore you required, a voice for song,
    A pastoral pipe to play, a lyre to touch,
    I recognize your bliss to find me here;
    The sky at morning when the sun upleaps
    Demands her atom of intense melody,
    Her point of quivering passion and delight,
    And will not let the larks heart be at ease.
    Take me, the brain with various, subtile fold,
    The breast that knows swift joy, the vocal lips;
    I yield you here the cunning instrument
    Between your knees; now let the plectrum fall!



Edward Dowden


Edward Dowden's other poems:
  1. In the Galleries
  2. The Wanderer
  3. The Morning Star
  4. In the Cathedral
  5. La Révélation par le Désert


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