POETRY: Reverie, by Robert Browning

I know there shall dawn a day
—Is it here on homely earth?
Is it yonder, worlds away,
Where the strange and new have birth,
That Power comes full in play?

Is it here, with grass about,
Under befriending trees,
When shy buds venture out,
And the air by mild degrees
Puts winter’s death past doubt?

Is it up amid whirl and roar
Of the elemental flame
Which star-flecks heaven’s dark floor,
That, new yet still the same,
Full in play comes Power once more?

Somewhere, below, above,
Shall a day dawn—this I know—
When Power, which vainly strove
My weakness to o’erthrow,
Shall triumph. I breathe. I move.

I truly am, at last!
For a veil is rent between
Me and the truth which passed
Fitful, half-guessed, half-seen,
Grasped at—not gained, held fast.

I for my race and me
Shall apprehend life’s law:
In the legend of man shall see
Writ large what small I saw
In my life’s tale: both agree.

As the record from youth to age
Of my own, the single soul—
So the world’s wide book: one page
Deciphered explains the whole
Of our common heritage.

How but from near to far
Should knowledge proceed, increase?
Try the clod ere test the star!
Bring our inside strife to peace
Ere we wage, on the outside, war!

So, my annals thus begin:
With body, to life awoke
Soul, the immortal twin
Of body which bore soul’s yoke
Since mortal and not akin.

By means of the flesh, grown fit,
Mind, in surview of things,
Now soared, anon alit
To treasure its gatherings
From the ranged expanse—to-wit.

Nature,—earth’s, heaven’s wide show
Which taught all hope, all fear:
Acquainted with joy and woe,
I could say “Thus much is clear,
Doubt annulled thus much: I know.

“All is effect of cause:
As it would, has willed and done
Power: and my mind’s applause
Goes, passing laws each one,
To Omnipotence, lord of laws.”

Head praises, but heart refrains
From loving’s acknowledgement.
Whole losses outweigh half-gains:
Earth’s good is with evil blent:
Good struggles but evil reigns.

Yet since Earth’s good proved good—
Incontrovertibly
Worth loving—I understood
How evil—did mind descry
Power’s object to end pursued—

Were haply as cloud across
Good’s orb, no orb itself:
Mere mind—were it found at loss
Did it play the tricksy elf
And from life’s gold purge the dross?

Power is known infinite:
Good struggles to be—at best
Seems—scanned by the human sight,
Tried by the senses’ test—
Good palpably: but with right

Therefore to mind’s award
Of loving, as power claims praise?
Power—which finds naught too hard,
Fulfilling itself all ways
Unchecked, unchanged: while barred.

Baffled, what good began
Ends evil on every side.
To Power submissive man
Breaths “E’en as Thou art, abide!”
While to good “Late-found, long-sought,

“Would Power to a plenitude
But liberate, but enlarge
Good’s straight confine,—renewed
Where ever the heart’s discharge
Of loving!” Else doubts intrude.

For you dominate, stars all!
For a sense informs you—brute,
Bird, worm, fly, great and small,
Each with your attribute
Or low or majestical!

Thou earth that embosomest
Offspring of land and sea—
How thy hills first sand to rest,
How thy vales bred herb and tree
Which dizen they mother-breast—

Do I ask? “Be ignorant
Ever!” the answer clangs:
Whereas if I plead world’s want,
Soul’s sorrows and body’s pangs,
Play the human applicant,—

Is a remedy far to seek?
I question and find response:
I—all men, strong or weak,
Conceive and declare at once
For each want its cure. “Power, speak

“Stop change, avert decay,
Fix life fast, banish death,
Eclipse from the star bid stay,
Abridge of no moment’s breath
One creature! Hence, Night, hail, Day!”

What need to confess again
No problem this to solve
By impotence? Power, once plain
Proved Power,—let on Power devolve
Good’s right to co-equal reign!

Past mind’s conception—Power!
Do I seek how star, earth, beast,
Bird, worm, fly, gained their dower
For life’s use, most and least?
Back from the search I cower.

Do I seek what heals all harm,
Nay, hinders the harm at first,
Saves earth? Speak, Power, the charm!
Keep the life there unamerced
By change, change, death’s alarm!

As promptly as mind conceives,
Let Power in its turn declare
Some law which wrong retrieves,
Abolishes everywhere
What thwarts, what irks, what grieves!

Never to be! and yet
How easy it seems—to sense
Like man’s—if somehow met
Power with its match—immense
Love, limitless, unbeset

By hindrance on every side!
Conjectured, nowise known,
Such may be: could man confide
Such would match—were Love but shown
Stript of the veils that hide—

Power’s self now manifest!
So reads my record: thine,
O world, how runs it? Guessed
Were the purport of that prime line,
Prophetic of all the rest!

“In the beginning God
made heaven and earth.” Forth flashed
Knowledge: from star to clod
Man knew things: doubt abashed
Closed its long period.

Knowledge obtained Power praise.
Had Good been manifest,
Broke out in cloudless blaze,
Unchequered as unrepressed,
In all things Good at best—

Then praise—all praise—no blame—
Had hailed the perfection. No!
As Power’s display, the same
Be Good’s—praise forth shall flow
Unisonous in acclaim!

Even as the world its life,
So have I lived my own—
Power seen with Love at strife,
That sure, this dimly shown,
—Good rare and evil rife.

Whereof the effect be—faith
That, some far day, were found
Ripeness in things now rathe,
Wrong righted, each chain unbound,
Renewal born out of scathe.

Why faith—but to lift the load,
To leaven the lump, where lies
Mind prostrate through knowledge owed
To the loveless Power it tries
To withstand, how vain! In flowed

Ever restless fact:
No more than the passive clay
Disputes the potter’s act,
Could the whelmed mind disobey
Knowledge the cataract.

But, perfect in every part,
Has the potter’s moulded shape,
Leap of man’s quickened heart,
Throe of his thought’s escape,
Stings of his soul which dart

Through the barrier of flesh, till keen
She climbs from the calm and clear.
Through turbidity all between,
From the known to the unknown here,
Heaven’s “Shall be,” From Earth’s “Has been”?

Then life is—to wake not sleep,
Rise and not rest, put press
From earth’s level where blindly creep
Things perfected, more or less,
To the heaven’s height, far and steep,

Where, amid what strifes and storms,
May wait the adventurous quest,
Power is Love—transports, transforms
Who aspired from worst to best,
Sought the soul’s world, spurned the worms’.

I have faith such end shall be:
From the first, Power was—I knew.
Life has made clear to me
That, strive but for closer view,
Love were as plain to see.

When see? When there dawns a day,
If not on the homely earth,
Then yonder, worlds away,
Where the strange and new have birth,
And Power comes full in play.

Epilogue

At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time,
When you set your fancies free,
Will they pass to where—by death, fools think, imprisoned—
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so,
—Pity me?

Oh to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken!
What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly?
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel
—Being—who?

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break.
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

No, at noonday in the bustle of man’s work-time
Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be,
“Strive and thrive!” cry “Speed—fight on, fare ever
There as here!”


new earth

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