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Christopher Pearse Cranch

Selected Poems


Thought is deeper than all speech,
  Feeling deeper than all thought:
Souls to souls can never teach
  What unto themselves was taught.

We are spirits clad in veils:
  Man by man was never seen:
All our deep communing fails
  To remove the shadowy screen.

Heart to heart was never known:
  Mind with mind did never meet:
We are columns left alone,
  Of a temple once complete.

Like the stars the gem the sky,
  Far apart, though seeming near,
In our light we scattered lie;
  All is thus but starlight here.

What is social company
  But a babbling summer stream?
What our wise philosophy
  But the glancing of a dream?
Only when the Sun of Love
  Melts the scattered stars of thought;
Only when we live above
  What the dim-eyed world hath taught,

Only when our souls are fed
  By the Fount which gave them birth,
And by inspiration led,
  Which they never drew from earth,

We, like parted drops of rain,
  Swelling till they meet and run,
Shall be all absorbed again,
  Melting, flowing into one.

To the Aurora Borealis

Artic fount of holiest light,
Springing through the winter night,
Spreading far behind yon hill,
When the earth lies dark and still,
Rippling o'er the stars, as streams
O'er pebbled beds in sunny gleams;
O for names, thou vision fair,
To express thy splendours rare!

Blush upon the cheek of night,
Posthumous, unearthly light,
Dream of the deep sunken sun,
Beautiful, sleep-walking one,
Sister of the moonlight pale,
Star-obscuring meteor veil,
Spread by heaven's watching vestals;
Sender of the gleamy crystals
Darting on their arrowy course

From their glittering polar source,
Upward where the air doth freeze
Round the sister Pleiades;--

Beautiful and rare Aurora,
In the heavens thou art their Flora,
Night-blooming Cereus of the sky,
Rose of amaranthine dye,
Hyacinth of purple light,
Or their Lily clad in white!

Who can name thy wondrous essence,
Thou electric phosphorescence?
Lonely apparition fire!
Seeker of the starry choir!
Restless roamer of the sky,
Who hath won thy mystery?
Mortal science hath not ran
With thee through the Empyrean,
Where the constellations cluster
Flower-like on thy branching lustre.

After all the glare and toil,
And the daylight's fretful coil,
Thou dost come so milt and still,
Hearts with love and peace fo fill;
As when after revelry
With a talking company,
Where the blaze of many lights
Fell on fools and parasites,
One by one the guests have gone,
And we find ourselves alone;
Only one sweet maiden near,
With a sweet voice low and clear,
Whispering music in our ear,--
So thou talkest to the earth
After daylight's weary mirth.
Is not human fantasy,
Wild Aurora, likest thee,
Blossoming in nightly dreams,
Like thy shifting meteor-gleams?

But a better type thou art
Of the strivings of the heart,
Reaching upward from the earth
To the SOUL that gave it birth.
When the noiseless beck of night
Summons out the inner light
That hath hid its purer ray
Through the lapses of the day--
Then like thee, thou Northern Morn,
Instincts which we deemed unborn,
Gushing from their hidden source
Mount upon their heavenward course
And the spirit seeks to be
Filled with God's eternity.


All things in Nature are beautiful types to the soul that will read them;
  Nothing exists upon earth, but for unspeakable ends.
Every object that speaks to the senses was meant for the spirit:
  Nature is but a scroll--God's hand-writing thereon.
Ages ago, when man was pure, ere the flood overwhlmed him,
  While in the image of God every soul yet lived,
Everything stood as a letter or word of a language familiar,
  Telling of truths which now only the angels can read.
Lost to man was the key of those sacred hieroglyphics--
  Stolen away by sin--till with Jesus restored.
Now with infinite pains we here and there spell out a letter;
  Now and then will the sense feebly shine through the dark.
When we perceive the light which breaks through the visible symbol,
  What exultation is ours! we the discovery have made!
Yet is the meaning the same as when Adam lived sinless in Eden,
  Only long-hidden it slept and now again is restored.
Man unconsciously uses figures of speech every moment,
  Little dreaing the cause why to such terms he is prone--
Little dreaming that everything has its own correspondence
  Folded within it of old, as in the body the soul.
Gleams of the mystery fall on us still, though much is forgotten,
  And through our commonest speech illumines the path of our thoughts.
Thus does the lordly sun shine out a type of the Godhead;
  Wisdom and Love the beams that stream on a darkened world.
Thus do the sparkling waters flow, giving joy to the desert,
  And the great Fountain of Life opens itself to the thirst.
Thus does the word of God distil like the rain and the dew-drops,
  Thus does the warm wind breathe like to the Spirit of God,
And the green grass and the flowers are signs of the regeneration.

  O thou Spirit of Truth; visit our minds once more!
Give us to read, in letters of light, the language celestial,
  Written all over the earth--written all over the sky:
Thus may we bring our hearts at length to know our Creator,
  Seeing in all things around types of the Infinite Mind.

I in Thee, and Thou in Me

I am but clay in thy hands, but thou art the all-loving artist;
  Passive I lie in thy sight, yet in my selfhood I strive
So to embody the life and love thou ever impartest
  That in my sphere of the finite I may be truly alive.

Knowing thou needest this form, as I thy divine inspiration,
  Knowing thou shapest the clay with a vision and purpose divine,
So would I answer each touch of thy hand in its loving creation,
  That in my conscious life thy power and beauty may shine.

Reflecting the noble intent thou has in forming thy creatures;
  Waking from sense into life of the soul, and the image of thee;
Working with thee in thy work to model humanity's features
  Into the likeness of God, myself from myself I would free.

One with all human existence, no one above or below me;
  Lit by thy wisdom and love, as roses are steeped in the morn;
Growing from clay to statue, from statue to flesh, till thou know me
  Wrought into manhood celestial, and in thine image reborn.

So in thy love will I trust, bringing me sooner or later
  Past the dark screen that divides these shows of the finite from thee.
Thine, thine only, this warm dear life, O loving Creator!
  Thine the invisible future, born of the present, must be.

The Ocean

"In a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
That brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore"--

Tell me, brother, what are we?
Spirit bathing in the sea
  Of Deity!
Half afloat, and half on land,
Wishing much to leave the strand,
Standing, gazing with devotion,
Yet afraid to trust the ocean--
  Such are we.

Wanting love and holiness,
To enjoy the wave's caress;
Wanting faith and heavenly hope,
Buyantly to bear us up;
Yet impatient in our dwelling,
When we hear the ocean swelling,
And in every wave that rolls
We behold the happy souls
Peacefully, triumphantly
Swiming on the smiling sea,
Then we linger round the shore,
Lovers of the earth no more.

Once--'t was in our infancy,
We were drifted by this sea
To the coast of human birth,
To this body and this earth:
Gentle were the hands that bore
Our young spirits to the shore;
Gentle lips that bade us look
Outward from our cradle-nook
To the spirit-bearing ocean
With such wonder and devotion,
As, each stilly sabbath day,
We were led a little way,
Where we saw the waters swell
Far away from inland dell,
And received with grave delight
Symbols of the Infinite--
Then our home was near the sea;
"Heaven was round our infancy"--
Night and day we heard the waves
Murmuring by us to their caves--
Floated in unconscious life
With no later doubts at strife,
Trustful of the Upholding Power,
Who sustained us hour by hour.
Now we've wandered from theshore,
Dwellers by the sea no more;
Yet at times there comes a tone
Telling of the visions flown,
Sounding from the distant sea
Where we left our purity:
Distance glimpses of the surge
Lure us down to ocean's verge;
There we stand with vague distress,
Yearning for the measureless,
By half-wakened instincts driven,
Half loving earth, half loving heaven,
Fearing to put off and swim,
Yet impelled to turn to Him,
In whose life we live and move,
And whose very name is Love.

Grant me, courage, Holy One,
To become indeed thy son,
And in thee, thou Parent-Sea,
Live and love eternally.

The Pines and the Sea [1877]

Beyond the low marsh-meadows and the beach,
Seen through the hoary trunks of windy pines,
The long blue level of the ocean shines.
The distant surf, with hoarse, complaining speech
Out from its sandy barrier seems to reach;
And while the sun behind the woods declines,
The moaning sea with sighing boughs combines,
And waves and pines make answer, each to each.
O melancholy soul, whom far and near,
In life, faith, hope, the same sad undertone
Pursues from thought to thought! thou needs must hear
An old refrain, too much, too long thine own:
'Tis thy mortality infects thine ear;
The mournful strain was in thyself alone.

The Boblinks

When Nature had made all her birds,
    And had no cares to think on,
She gave a rippling laugh —and out
    There flew a Bobolink on.

She laughed again, —out flew a mate.
    A breeze of Eden bore them
Across the fields of Paradise,
    The sunrise reddening o’er them.

Incarnate sport and holiday,
    They flew and sang forever;
Their souls through June were all in tune,
    Their wings were weary never.

The blithest song of breezy farms,
    Quaintest of field-note flavors,
Exhaustless fount of trembling trills
    And demisemiquavers.

Their tribe, still drunk with air and light
    And perfume of the meadow,
Go reeling up and down the sky,
    In sunshine and in shadow.

One springs from out the dew-wet grass,
    Another follows after;
The morn is thrilling with their songs
    And peals of fairy laughter.

From out the marshes and the brook,
    They set the tall reeds swinging,
And meet and frolic in the air,
    Half prattling and half singing.

When morning winds sweep meadow lands
    In green and russet billows,
And toss the lonely elm-tree’s boughs,
    And silver all the willows,

I see you buffeting the breeze,
    Or with its motion swaying,
Your notes half drowned against the wind,
    Or down the current playing.

When far away o’er grassy flats,
    Where the thick wood commences,
The white-sleeved mowers look like specks
    Beyond the zigzag fences,

And noon is hot, and barn-roofs gleam
    White in the pale-blue distance,
I hear the saucy minstrels still
    In chattering persistence.

When Eve her domes of opal fire
    Piles round the blue horizon,
Or thunder rolls from hill to hill

    A Kyrie Eleison,— Still, merriest of the merry birds,
    Your sparkle is unfading, —
Pied harlequins of June, no end
    Of song and masquerading.

What cadences of bubbling mirth
    Too quick for bar or rhythm!
What ecstasies, too full to keep
    Coherent measure with them!

O could I share, without champagne
    Or muscadel, your frolic,
The glad delirium of your joy,
    Your fun un-apostolic,

Your drunken jargon through the fields,
    Your bobolinkish gabble,
Your fine anacreontic glee,
    Your tipsy reveller’s babble!

Nay, — let me not profane such joy
    With similes of folly, —
No wine of earth could waken songs
So delicately jolly!

     O boundless self-contentment, voiced
    In flying air-born bubbles!
O joy that mocks our sad unrest,
    And drowns our earth-born troubles!

Hope springs with you: I dread no more
    Despondency and dullness;
For Good Supreme can never fail
    That gives such perfect fullness.

The Life that floods the happy fields
    With song and light and color
Will shape our lives to richer states,
    And heap our measures fuller.

The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 18, issue 107 (September 1866)

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