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Renascence and Other Poems

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Renascence and Other Poems


All I could see from where I stoodWas three long mountains and a wood;I turned and looked another way,And saw three islands in a bay.So with my eyes I traced the lineOf the horizon, thin and fine,Straight around till I was comeBack to where I'd started from;And all I saw from where I stoodWas three long mountains and a wood.Over these things I could not see;These were the things that bounded me;And I could touch them with my hand,Almost, I thought, from where I stand.And all at once things seemed so smallMy breath came short, and scarce at all.But, sure, the sky is big, I said;Miles and miles above my head;So here upon my back I'll lieAnd look my fill into the sky.And so I looked, and, after all,The sky was not so very tall.The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,And—sure enough!—I see the top!The sky, I thought, is not so grand;I 'most could touch it with my hand!And reaching up my hand to try,I screamed to feel it touch the sky.I screamed, and—lo!—InfinityCame down and settled over me;Forced back my scream into my chest,Bent back my arm upon my breast,And, pressing of the UndefinedThe definition on my mind,Held up before my eyes a glassThrough which my shrinking sight did passUntil it seemed I must beholdImmensity made manifold;Whispered to me a word whose soundDeafened the air for worlds around,And brought unmuffled to my earsThe gossiping of friendly spheres,The creaking of the tented sky,The ticking of Eternity.I saw and heard, and knew at lastThe How and Why of all things, past,And present, and forevermore.The Universe, cleft to the core,Lay open to my probing senseThat, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thenceBut could not,—nay! But needs must suckAt the great wound, and could not pluckMy lips away till I had drawnAll venom out.—Ah, fearful pawn!For my omniscience paid I tollIn infinite remorse of soul.All sin was of my sinning, allAtoning mine, and mine the gallOf all regret. Mine was the weightOf every brooded wrong, the hateThat stood behind each envious thrust,Mine every greed, mine every lust.And all the while for every grief,Each suffering, I craved reliefWith individual desire,—Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fireAbout a thousand people crawl;Perished with each,—then mourned for all!A man was starving in Capri;He moved his eyes and looked at me;I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,And knew his hunger as my own.I saw at sea a great fog bankBetween two ships that struck and sank;A thousand screams the heavens smote;And every scream tore through my throat.No hurt I did not feel, no deathThat was not mine; mine each last breathThat, crying, met an answering cryFrom the compassion that was I.All suffering mine, and mine its rod;Mine, pity like the pity of God.Ah, awful weight! InfinityPressed down upon the finite Me!My anguished spirit, like a bird,Beating against my lips I heard;Yet lay the weight so close aboutThere was no room for it without....