by: Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall (1835-1911)

From "Siva"

      AM the God of the sensuous fire
      That moulds all Nature in forms divine;
      The symbols of death and of man’s desire,
      The springs of change in the world, are mine;
      The organs of birth and the circlet of bones,
      And the light loves carved on the temple stones.
      I am the lord of delights and pain,
      Of the pest that killeth, of fruitful joys;
      I rule the currents of heart and vein;
      A touch gives passion, a look destroys;
      In the heat and cold of my lightest breath
      Is the might incarnate of Lust and Death.
      If a thousand altars stream with blood
      Of the victims slain by the chanting priest,
      Is a great God lured by the savoury food?
      I reck not of worship, or song, or feast;
      But that millions perish, each hour that flies,
      Is the mystic sign of my sacrifice.
      Ye may plead and pray for the millions born;
      They come like dew on the morning grass;
      Your vows and vigils I hold in scorn,
      The soul stays never, the stages pass;
      All life is the play of the power that stirs
      In the dance of my wanton worshippers.
      And the strong swift river my shrine below
      It runs, like man, its unending course
      To the boundless sea from eternal snow;
      Mine is the Fountain--and mine the Force
      That spurs all nature to ceaseless strife;
      And my image is Death at the gates of Life.
      In many a legend and many a shape,
      In the solemn grove and the crowded street,
      I am the Slayer, whom none escape;
      I am Death trod under a fair girl’s feet;
      I govern the tides of the sentient sea
      That ebbs and flows to eternity.
      And the sum of the thought and the knowledge of man
      Is the secret tale that my emblems tell;
      Do ye seek God’s purpose, or trace his plan?
      Ye may read your doom in my parable:
      For the circle of life in its flower and its fall
      Is the writing that runs on my temple wall.…
      Let my temples fall, they are dark with age,
      Let my idols break, they have stood their day;
      On their deep hewn stones the primeval sage
      Has figured the spells that endure alway;
      My presence may vanish from river and grove,
      But I rule for ever in Death and Love.

"I Am the God of the Sensuous Fire" is reprinted from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. Ed. Nicholson & Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.




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