POETRY: Evelyn Underhill (Five Poems)

Evelyn Underhill (Five Poems)

Immanence

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
Not borne on morning wings
Of majesty, but I have set my feet
Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat
That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod.
There do I dwell in weakness and in power;
Not broken or divided, saith our God!
Is your strait garden plot I come to flower:
About your porch my vine
Meek, fruitful, doth entwine;
Waits, at the threshold, Love’s appointed hour.

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
Yes! on the glancing wings
Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet
Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet
Your hard and wayward heart. In brown bright eyes
That peep from out the brake, I stand confessed.
On every nest
Where feathery patience is content to brood
And leaves her pleasure for the high emprise
Of motherhood—
There doth my Godhead rest.

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
My starry wings
I do forsake,
Love’s highway of humility to take:
Meekly I fit my stature to your need.
In beggar’s part
About your gates I shall not cease to plead—
As man, to speak with man—
Till by such art
I shall achieve my immemorial plan,
Pass the low lintel of the human heart.


Introversion

What do you seek within, O soul, my brother?
What do you seek within?
I seek a life that shall never die,
Some haven to win
From mortality.

What do you find within, O soul, my brother?
What do you find within?
I find great quiet where no noises come.
Without, the world’s din:
Silence in my home.

Whom do you find within, O soul, my brother?
Whom do you find within?
I find a friend that in secret came:
His scarred hands within
He shields a faint flame.

What would you do within, O soul, my brother?
What would you do within?
Bar door and window that none may see:
That alone we may be
(Alone! face to face,
In that flame-lit place!)
When first we begin
To speak one with another.


Uxbridge Road

The Western Road goes streaming out to seek the cleanly wild,
It pours the city’s dim desires towards the undefiled,
It sweeps betwixt the huddled homes about its eddies grown
To smear the little space between the city and the sown:
The torments of that seething tide who is there that can see?
There’s one who walked with starry feet the western road by me!

He is the drover of the soul; he leads the flock of men
All wistful on that weary track, and brings them back again.
The dreaming few, the slaving crew, the motley caste of life—
The wastrel and artificer, the harlot and the wife—
They may not rest, forever pressed by one they cannot see:
The one who walked with starry feet the western road by me.

He drives them east, he drives them west, between the dark and light;
He pastures them in city pens, he leads them home at night.
The towery trams, the threaded trains, like shuttles to and fro
To weave the web of working days in ceaseless travel go.
How harsh the woof, how long the weft! who shall the fabric see?
The one who walked with starry feet the western road by me!

Throughout the living joyful year at lifeless tasks to strive,
And scarcely at the end to save gentility alive;
The villa plot to sow and reap, to act the villa lie,
Beset by villa fears to live, midst villa dreams to die;
Ah, who can know the dreary woe? and who the splendor see?
The one who walked with starry feet the western road by me.

Behold! he lent me as we went the vision of the seer;
Behold! I saw the life of men, the life of God shine clear.
I saw the hidden Spirit’s thrust; I saw the race fulfill
The spiral of its steep ascent, predestined of the will.
Yet not unled, but shepherded by one they may not see—
The one who walked with starry feet the western road by me!


Regnum Caelorum Vim Patitur

When our five-angled spears, that pierced the world
And drew its life-blood, faint before the wall
Which hems its secret splendour—when we fall,
Lance broken banner furled,
Before that calm invincible defense
Whereon our folly hurled
The piteous armies of intelligence—
Then, often-times, we know
How conquering mercy to the battle field
Comes through the darkness, freely to bestow
The prize for which we fought
Not knowing what we sought,
And salve the wounds of those who would not yield.

He loves the valiant foe; he comes not out to meet
The craven soul made captive of its fear:
Not these the victories that to him are sweet!
But the impetuous soldiery of truth,
And knighthood of the intellectual quest,
Who ask not for his ruth
Nor would desire his rest:
These are to him most dear,
And shall in their surrender yet prevail.
Yea! at the end of unrewarded days,
By swift and secret ways
As on a sudden moonbeam shining clear,
Soft through the night shall slide upon their gaze
The thrice-defended vision of the Grail:
And when his peace hath triumphed, these shall be
The flower of his celestial chivalry.

And did you think, he saith
As to and fro he goes the trenches through,
My heart impregnable, that you must bring
The ballisters of faith
Their burning bolts to fling,
And all the cunning intricate device
Of human wit,
One little breach to make
That so you might attain to enter it?
Nay, on the other side
Love’s undefended postern is set wide:
But thus it is I woo
My dearest sons, that ignoble ease
Shall never please,
Nor any smooth and open way entice.
Armed would I have them come
Against the mighty bastions of their home;
Out of high failure win
Their way within,
And from my conquering hand their birthright take.


Corpus Christi

Come, dear Heart!
The fields are white to harvest: come and see
As in a glass the timeless mystery
Of love, whereby we feed
On God, our bread indeed.
Torn by the sickles, see him share the smart
of travailing creation: maimed, despised,
Yet by his lovers the more dearly prized
Because for us he lays his beauty down—
Last toll paid by perfection for our loss!
Trace on these fields his everlasting cross,
And o’er the stricken sheaves the Immortal Victim’s crown.

From far horizons came a voice that said,
“Lo! from the hand of death take thou thy daily bread.”
Then I, awakening, saw
A splendour burning in the heart of things:
The flame of living love which lights the law
Of mystic death that works the mystic birth.
I knew the patient passion of the Earth,
Material, everlasting, whence there springs
The bread of angels and the life of man.

Now in each blade
I, blind no longer, see
The glory of God’s growth: know it to be
An earnest of the immemorial plan.
Yea, I have understood
How all things are one great oblation made:
He on our altars, we on the world’s rood.
Even as this corn,
Earth-born,
We are snatched from the sod;
Reaped, ground to grist,
Crushed and tormented in the mills of God,
And offered at life’s hands, a living Eucharist.

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