BY THE WINDOW
by: Edward Dowden (1843-1913)
- TILL deep into the West I gazed;
- Clear, spiritual, tranquil as a bird
- Wide-winged that soars on the smooth gale and sleeps,
- Was it from sun far-set or moon unrisen?
- Whether from moon, or sun, or angels face
- It held my heart from motion, stayed my blood,
- Betrayed each rising thought to quiet death
- Along the blind charmd way to nothingness,
- Lulld the last nerve that ached. It was a sky
- Made for a man to waste his will upon,
- To be received as wiser than all toil,
- And much more fair. And what was strife of men?
- And what was time?
- Then came a certain thing.
- Are intimations for the elected soul
- Dubious, obscure, of unauthentic power
- Since ghostly to the intellectual eye,
- Shapeless to thinking? Nay, but are not we
- Servile to words and an usurping brain,
- Infidels of our own high mysteries,
- Until the senses thicken and lose the world,
- Until the imprisoned soul forgets to see,
- And spreads blind fingers forth to reach the day,
- Which once drank light, and fed on angels food?
- It happened swiftly, came and straight was gone.
- One standing on some aery balcony
- And looking down upon a swarming crowd
- Sees one man beckon to him with finger-tip
- While eyes meet eyes; he turns and looks again--
- The man is lost, and the crowd sways and swarms.
- Shall such an one say, Thus tis proved a dream,
- And no hand beckoned, no eyes met my own?
- Neither can I say this. There was a hint,
- A thrill, a summons faint yet absolute,
- Which ran across the West; the sky was touchd,
- And failed not to respond. Does a hand pass
- Lightly across your hair? you feel it pass
- Not half so heavy as a cobwebs weight,
- Although you never stir; so felt the sky
- Not unaware of the Presence, so my soul
- Scarce less aware. And if I cannot say
- The meaning and monition, words are weak
- Which will not paint the small wing of a moth,
- Nor bear a subtile odour to the brain,
- And much less serve the soul in her large needs.
- I cannot tell the meaning, but a change
- Was wrought in me; it was not the one man
- Who came to the luminous window to gaze forth,
- And who moved back into the darkened room
- With awe upon his heart and tender hope;
- From some deep well of life tears rose; the throng
- Of dusty cares, hopes, pleasures, prides fell off,
- And from a sacred solitude I gazed
- Deep, deep into the liquid eyes of Life.
POEMS BY EDWARD DOWDEN
"By the Window" is reprinted
from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. Ed. Nicholson
& Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.