by: Edward Dowden (1843-1913)

      TILL deep into the West I gazed; the light
      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 angel’s face
      It held my heart from motion, stayed my blood,
      Betrayed each rising thought to quiet death
      Along the blind charm’d way to nothingness,
      Lull’d 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 touch’d,
      And failed not to respond. Does a hand pass
      Lightly across your hair? you feel it pass
      Not half so heavy as a cobweb’s 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.

"By the Window" is reprinted from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. Ed. Nicholson & Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.




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