I have seen a curious child

             The Excursion (1850), IV, 1125-1181

 



 

                                               I have seen

A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract

Of inland ground, applying to his ear

The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;

To which, in silence hushed, his very soul

Listened intensely; and his countenance soon

Brightened with joy; for from within were heard

Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed

Mysterious union with its native sea.

Even such a shell the universe itself

Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times,

I doubt not, when to you it doth impart

Authentic tidings of invisible things;

Of ebb and flow, and ever-during power;

And central peace, subsisting at the heart

Of endless agitation. Here you stand,

Adore, and worship, when you know it not;

Pious beyond the intention of your thought;

Devout above the meaning of your will.

—Yes, you have felt, and may not cease to feel.

The estate of man would be indeed forlorn

If false conclusions of the reasoning power

Made the eye blind, and closed the passages

Through which the ear converses with the heart.

Has not the soul, the being of your life,

Received a shock of awful consciousness,

In some calm season, when these lofty rocks

At night’s approach bring down the unclouded sky,

To rest upon their circumambient walls;

A temple framing of dimensions vast,

And yet not too enormous for the sound

Of human anthems,—choral song, or burst

Sublime of instrumental harmony,

To glorify the Eternal! What if these

Did never break the stillness that prevails

Here,—if the solemn nightingale be mute,

And the soft woodlark here did never chant

Her vespers,—Nature fails not to provide

Impulse and utterance. The whispering air

Sends inspiration from the shadowy heights,

And blind recesses of the caverned rocks;

The little rills, and waters numberless,

Inaudible by daylight, blend their notes

With the loud streams: and often, at the hour

When issue forth the first pale stars, is heard,

Within the circuit of this fabric huge,

One voice—the solitary raven, flying

Athwart the concave of the dark blue dome,

Unseen, perchance above all power of sight—

An iron knell! with echoes from afar

Faint—and still fainter—as the cry, with which

The wanderer accompanies her flight

Through the calm region, fades upon the ear,

Diminishing by distance till it seemed

To expire; yet from the abyss is caught again,

And yet again recovered!

 



 
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