The Soul's Quest and Other Poems

by Frederick George Scott


 

EVOLUTION


 

THOU stand’st complete in every part,
    An individual of thy kind;
But whence thou cam’st and what thou art,
    Didst ever ask thee of thy mind?

Thou claim’st a portion of God's earth;

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    Thou say’st to all men, “This is I;”
Thou hast a date to mark thy birth,
    And other date when thou shalt die.

Thy years are in the planets’ years;
    A space in all that mighty span,

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A little space of smiles and tears,
    Is writ in shining letters—“Man.”

Thou hear’st the mighty ocean roll,
    Thou seest death on every hand;
There loom strange phantoms in thy soul,

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    And boundless heavens arch the land.

Thy feet are on the sand and clay,
    Which once had other growths than these,
And in the great world’s yesterday,
    Heard murmurs of the tropic seas.

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Life out of death, death out of life,
    In endless cycles rolling on,
And fire-gleams flashing from the strife
    Of what will come and what has gone.

A perfect whole, a perfect plan,

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    Ay, doubtless, in the perfect mind,
An onward march since time began,
    With yet no laggart left behind.

All blended in a wondrous chain,
    Each link the fittest for its place;

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The stronger made to bear the strain,
    The weaker formed to give it grace.

But what art thou and what am I?
    What place is ours in all this scheme?
What is it to be born and die?

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    Are we but phases in a dream,

That earth or some prime mother dreams,
    Folded away in crimson skies?
Or are we dazzled with the beams
    Of light too strong for new-born eyes?

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Certes, we are not very much;
    We cannot cause ourselves to be;
Not even the limbs by which we touch
    Are really owned by thee and me.

But they were fashioned years ago,

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    Ay, centuries; since earth’s natal morn,
The wondering ages saw them grow,
    Till our time came and we were born.

And we are present, future, past—
    Shall live again, have lived before,

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Like billows on the beaches cast
    Of tides that flow for evermore.

And yet thou sayest, “This is I;
    I am marked off from all my kind;
I look not to the by-and-by;

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    I care not for what lies behind.”

That may be so; but to mine eyes
    A being of wondrous make thou art—
The point at which infinities
    Converge, touch, and for ever part.

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Thou canst not unmake what has been,
    Nor hold back that which is to come;
We dwell upon the waste between
    In the small “now” which is our home.

“Though this be so,” thou answerest, “still

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    I feel and know myself to be:
Thy creed would make the perfect will
    In God's sight like a stone or tree.”

Ah no! for stone and tree are one,
    And perfect will bears different fruit;

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The will is grander than the sun,
    The body brother to the brute.

But in the ages thou shalt be
    A link from unknown to unknown,
A bridge across a darkling sea,

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    A light on the world’s pathway thrown

Ay, such is man—a moan in sleep;
    A passing dream; he thinks and is,
And then falls back into the deep
    Where other deeps call unto this.

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But in that thinking, in that pause,
    That dream which did so little yield,
There met a universe of laws,
    And branched out into wider field.

We live not for ourselves—ah no!

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    We do not live; man lives in us.
The race dwells in us; even so
    The race will live, though we pass thus.

The forces that have fashioned thee
    Have rolled through space since time began—

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Have ranged the heavens, the earth, the sea,
    And in God's time have made thee man.

And so to further goal they move,
    When thou hast passed from mortal sight;
To fashion beings that will prove

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    More wondrous still, more full of light.

We are the foam-crest on the wave,
    Lit for a moment by the sun;
A moment thus we toss and rave,
    Then fall back ere our day is done.

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Thou then art twain—the force that builds
    The broad foundations of the race,
And separate light from God that gilds
    The soul with individual grace.

God looks at both: the one displays

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    The laws that work His purpose still;
The other thine own spirit sways,
    And here God asks the perfect will.

I would not have thee think the less
    Of this small part which is man’s soul,

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Nor miss the exceeding blessedness
    Of knowing thyself a separate whole.

“What proof,” thou sayest, “if this be true,
    That thou and I survive the shock
Which summons all we are and do

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    To credit of the primal stock?

“If I and thou a moment are
    Conscious of self, of touch, of sight,
Then vanish like a falling star,
    And sink in everlasting night,

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“What proof that in the overthrow
    The thing that says, knows, ‘This is I,’
Will not pass with the rest, and go
    Dissolved into the vast supply?”

Though formed of elemental dust,

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    And moulded through such countless years,
We perish not with these, but must
    Survive the rolling of the spheres.

We must, I say; for what most high
    In man? Is’t not the subtle part,

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The power which tells me, “This is I;
    I am not everything thou art”?

Would God have laboured then and wrought
    With fire and water, life and death,
And through the weary cycles brought

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    A creature with the vital breath,

And breathed such power within his soul,
    And crowned him with such wondrous grace,
And said, “Go forth from pole to pole,
    And meet thy brother face to face,”

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If this strange power were meant to sink
    Back into chaos or be lost,
Or cast off as a broken link,
    Or die like wave along the coast?

Not that God's way. On—ever on,

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    To nobler, purer, higher things;
Form out the ages that are gone
    Each newer, grander era springs.

So nought is lost, but all must pass,
    And life through varied stages move;

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From the pale fungus in the grass,
    To deepest depths of light and love.

And we must pass—we shall not die;
    Changed and transformed, but still the same,
To grander heights of mystery,

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    To fairer realms than whence we came.

God will not let His work be lost;
    Too wondrous is the mind of man,
Too many ages it has cost
    The huge fulfilment of His plan.

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But on we pass, for ever on,
    Through death to other deaths and life;
To brighter lights when these are gone;
    To broader thought, more glorious strife;

To vistas opening out of these;

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    To wonders shining from afar,
Above the surging of the seas,
    Above the course of moon and star;

To higher powers of will and deed,
    All bounds and limits left behind;

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To truths undreamt in any creed;
    To deeper love, more God-like mind.

For this the sky and sea and earth
    God moulded with His ice and fire;
For this the ages gave us birth,

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    And filled our hearts with mad desire.

Great God! we move into the vast;
    All questions vain—the shadows come!
We hear no answer from the past;
    The years before us all are dumb.

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We trust Thy purpose and Thy will,
    We see afar the shining goal;
Forgive us if there linger still
    Some human fear within our soul!

Forgive us, if when crumbling in

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    The world that we have loved and known,
With forms so fair to us, we sin
    By eyes averted from Thy throne!

Forgive us, if with thoughts too wild,
    And eyes too dim to pierce the gloom,

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We shudder like a frightened child
    That enters at a darkened room!

Forgive us, if when dies away
    All human sound upon our ears,
We hear not, in the swift decay,

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    Thy loving voice to calm our fears!

But lo! the dawn of fuller days;
    Horizon-glories fringe the sky!
Our feet would climb the shining ways
    To meet man’s widest destiny.

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Come, then, all sorrow’s recompense!
    The kindling sky is flaked with gold;
Above the shattered screen of sense,
    A voice like thunder cries, “Behold!”

1887.