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Poem by Louisa Sarah Bevington

The Pessimist

I WANDERED yesternight 'twixt sleep and sleep
On the wild outmost coast of consciousness,
Where beat forever waves of paradox,
Fringing abysmal seas of formless fact
That baffle order and omnipotence;
There man finds never thought; and God, no utterance.

In vision I beheld the perfect man
Stand, with all victory behind his back,
Facing the Vague that shapes the shores of sense,
The firm Unfelt, that rims the realm of mind.
Unemphasisèd rhythms of all worlds,
And unimpassioned ceaselessness of years
Mocked him, and penetrated, where he stood
Knowing all knowledge, comprehending life,
Brought to the final equilibriate bound
That is quiescence. There he pardoned God.

He pardoned, for he pitied. He had passed
Perilously through passion into pain,
Passionately through pain to numb despair;
In diverse fulness of his spirit's strength,
Had trode the devious ways of human lot
From first to latest, proving one by one
Those four weird worlds each prophet traverses--
Four phases of the deep, mad mystery
Men lightly nickname "Life,"--four mystic spheres
Where-through wills work a purpose not their own.

Eden, whose innocence nor sinks nor soars,
Nor knows it doth not either, nor can know
Because of innocence; where words afloat,
Intruding from without, lose in calm air
All import, keeping syllables to aid
Pale souls to speak pale trifles; where the sun
Shines with a tempered heat, a safe, white light
That nothing blasts, and nothing finely fires.
Here in the unfelt peace of flower-life
Move the Untried on level, middling ways;
Harmless and unimpeded: unaware
Of Eden's Eden-hood. He had been there.

Then conflict-plain of that mid wilderness
Outside the Eden-gate, where sense and soul
Strive in perplexèd writhings of wrought life,
Half base, half glorious; bringing conscience forth
As victor, or as scourge. He had been there.

Blood drives: light beckons. So Gehenna next
Gapes at the urgent feet: fell precipice
Of lawless pit that mocketh liberty,
Where ill flares luridly and inwardly,
Triumphing and despairing; loose, yet gagged,
Lest it spit forth tempestuous taunt to vex
Or wreck the universal hope of souls,
In direst deluge of gall-bitter flame.
There conscience, with some tone of ghastly gibe,
Most impotently riots amid the thoughts
In the soul's worst estate; and reason sways,
Lit and afire with lust. He had been there.

And last, the heaven of high deliverance;--
The love-light that none living entereth.
Yet--haggard with the wanton strife of earth,
And scorched and scarred with the pent woe of hell--

Lost poet souls creep to the verges of,
And peering through its gates, so long to win
That thought lies down in prayer with folded wings,
Or entering dies, the drowned death-joy of love!--
Loosed timelessly from life's own limit-load;--
For the eternal moment one with God.

So had he travelled all the ways of men,
And reached that fringèd coast of formlessness.
The keys were his of prophecy and art,
Flung to him from high heaven to clank in hell,
And unlock all the silences of earth.
But of the sad, sweet, fain philosophies
E'en this was known unto the utmost man,--
True knowledge and its goal are set as foes;
The prize life's agony is borne to win,
Itself the deep, great stillness of spent life,--
The soul-cry spent in crying that ends the strife.

Thus having journeyed, lo! he stood at length
Crying on truth with all his parting strength;
And eloquent in dumbness at his feet
The waves of paradox kept equal beat:--
"The price of sight is to be blind through light;

The price of wisdom, value of its veil;
The price of goodness, innocency's pyre;
The price of rest, the weariness that slays."
So thundered on his thought's supremest rim
Twin-facts, twin-toned; each mocking each, and him.
Then as the universal darkened down,
And the Unformed swept nearer him, to drown
In all unmeaning ending fate's long frown,--
Then, when his hope's last final flicker waned,
There burst the truth upon:--God is chained!

The unfathomable weariness of God
Bound by his boundlessness to be and be,
Alone and unexpressed, immortally,--
The cause that can effect not, endlessly,--
Fired this last prophet. High he flung his arms
Standing on thought's last verge, and sent his cry
Winged with a soul-sore yearning into space,
Gazing as though his gaze met the mute face
Of God's despair most straightly, eye to eye,
As lovers when they love entirely.
And with the outer darkness o'er his head,
And with the dust of death about his feet,

And with the wreck of hope behind his back,
And with the blank Unthought before his face,
He cried to God a dreadful, final cry,
That was not praise, nor prayer, but--sympathy.

* * * * *

"Great Sufferer! God! Helpless Omnipotence!
That broke thy being into discord dire,
To feel thyself alive in chaos-fire
And action, interacting and intense;--
Not thine the curse that life began to be,
To look upon thy misery and thee.

We, who are born of thine immense distress,
Being less, and being many, suffer less,
And so may pardon that terrific sigh
That broke from dull deep of thy unity
To wake the clash of forces and our life,
And all the quivering detail of world-strife.

And lo! the riddle of the universe,--
All this most horrible august mischance
Of woe-worn being at its grim death-dance,--

Unveiled,--forgiven. God! it had been worse
That thy most awful bosom had not rent
Itself in sob that built the firmament,
And woke the hurrying worlds to ease thy woe,
And life to speak thee to thee, blind and slow.

What place for joying while thou art alone?--
Till thou hast known thyself a little known
Let nothing curse thee! Though a myriad fail
Their loss is thine, and may thy life avail;
The pain-born universe is thine own pain
That, till through love it help thee, toils in vain.

Be thy grief partly easier, that we weep;
Thy wearying partly easier that we sleep;
Be thy void love the richer that we find
Life not ourselves to love, and kinships kind:
If in our being thine may find relief,
Take thou our love for all our life and grief.

Ineffable! Eternal! Unexpressed!
Be answer waked where the void deep was mute
Of thine abysmal life. O Absolute!
Take all thou canst of us, so thou may'st rest;

Help us to help unbind and set thee free,
For Godhead's awful grief take thou man's sympathy."

* * * * *

The angels looked upon that utmost man
And struck a new wild chord on heavenly harps,
And sang a riven, startled measure forth
To dubious tune of most unheavenly fear.
Psalm, sickened through with satire unaware,
Rang in the doom-struck halls of deity:
"King! thou hast brought forth as the fruit of all
A devil-life to mock thee! Thou art God!"
The wrecked ones in torture of pent pride
Sneered up from hell-fire: "Ha! consummate birth
Of all time's travail! Trifler with sweet ill
That timely spewed it forth for bitter good!
Hell reads thine inmost heart! Thou finished saint!
So holy grown that thou would'st ransom God,
And die his saviour! So thou did'st aspire
Till there grew from thee rainbow-plumes to soar
To that last wistfulness at heaven's gate,
And found it barred against thee? Grievous saint!

What hast thou won? What profit, lordly soul?
To tell thy deity he reigns absolved
For damning thee? Why, so absolved are we;
Sure God, man-pardoned, pardons devils that know
So well his pardoner? Whole man! mere man!
Crown of the universe! Most perfect man!"
The sons of earth beheld him stand and cry
And crave, and pity God, and sympathise,
And speak as one who grasped the utmost end
Of earth's unended conflict; and they said
With shuddering: "Lo! the fruit of genius;
He speaketh with assurance. He is mad!"
Yet Eden-souls smiled on, nor recked of aught
But that the sun rose, and at evening set.
"See, birds build nests in spring-time; while the moon
And stars light up the garden of the nights,
And rainfall helps the lilies open out,--
The thornless, pallid lilies all about.
Speak ye of din outside the Eden-gate?
We know of it: the wind is loud at times.
God reigns for all; that outer wilderness--
Dim, hearsay waste--it howls in vain for us:--

See the white petals curl them thus and thus.
God reigns; blow what wind may through emptiness."

In vain! O travail of the universe!
In vain! O truth whose depth is in a curse!
There needs no better where there weeps no worse.
For all that he had suffered and had been,
Here, where the Unbegun reposed serene,
Here, where no blended light of ill and good
Inflamed or fired the fencèd sisterhood,--
Not pitied, curst, nor praised, but blankly seen,
The Perfected a bootless, voiceless cypher stood.

Louisa Sarah Bevington

Louisa Sarah Bevington's other poems:
  1. Merle Wood
  2. Her Worst and Best
  3. Steel or Gold?
  4. Not Ye Who Goad
  5. Egoisme a Deux

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Madison Cawein The Pessimist ("Here is a tale for uncles and old aunties")
  • Pelham Wodehouse The Pessimist ("They tell me that the weathers fair")
  • Benjamin King The Pessimist ("Nthing t d but wrk")
  • Ella Wilcox The Pessimist ("The pessimistic locust, last to leaf")

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