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The Lonely God

Written by: James Stephens | Biography
 | Quotes (4) |
 So Eden was deserted, and at eve 
Into the quiet place God came to grieve. 
His face was sad, His hands hung slackly down 
Along his robe; too sorrowful to frown 
He paced along the grassy paths and through 
The silent trees, and where the flowers grew 
Tended by Adam. All the birds had gone 
Out to the world, and singing was not one 
To cheer the lonely God out of His grief -- 
The silence broken only when a leaf 
Tapt lightly on a leaf, or when the wind, 
Slow-handed, swayed the bushes to its mind. 

And so along the base of a round hill, 
Rolling in fern, He bent His way until 
He neared the little hut which Adam made, 
And saw its dusky rooftree overlaid 
With greenest leaves. Here Adam and his spouse 
Were wont to nestle in their little house 
Snug at the dew-time: here He, standing sad, 
Sighed with the wind, nor any pleasure had 
In heavenly knowledge, for His darlings twain 
Had gone from Him to learn the feel of pain, 
And what was meant by sorrow and despair, -- 
Drear knowledge for a Father to prepare. 

There he looked sadly on the little place; 
A beehive round it was, without a trace 
Of occupant or owner; standing dim 
Among the gloomy trees it seemed to Him 
A final desolation, the last word 
Wherewith the lips of silence had been stirred. 
Chaste and remote, so tiny and so shy, 
So new withal, so lost to any eye, 
So pac't of memories all innocent 
Of days and nights that in it had been spent 
In blithe communion, Adam, Eve, and He, 
Afar from Heaven and its gaudery; 
And now no more! He still must be the God 
But not the friend; a Father with a rod 
Whose voice was fear, whose countenance a threat, 
Whose coming terror, and whose going wet 
With penitential tears; not evermore 
Would they run forth to meet Him as before 
With careless laughter, striving each to be 
First to His hand and dancing in their glee 
To see Him coming -- they would hide instead 
At His approach, or stand and hang the head, 
Speaking in whispers, and would learn to pray 
Instead of asking, 'Father, if we may.' 

Never again to Eden would He haste 
At cool of evening, when the sun had paced 
Back from the tree-tops, slanting from the rim 
Of a low cloud, what time the twilight dim 
Knit tree to tree in shadow, gathering slow 
Till all had met and vanished in the flow 
Of dusky silence, and a brooding star 
Stared at the growing darkness from afar, 
While haply now and then some nested bird 
Would lift upon the air a sleepy word 
Most musical, or swing its airy bed 
To the high moon that drifted overhead. 

'Twas good to quit at evening His great throne, 
To lay His crown aside, and all alone 
Down through the quiet air to stoop and glide 
Unkenned by angels: silently to hide 
In the green fields, by dappled shades, where brooks 
Through leafy solitudes and quiet nooks 
Flowed far from heavenly majesty and pride, 
From light astounding and the wheeling tide 
Of roaring stars. Thus does it ever seem 
Good to the best to stay aside and dream 
In narrow places, where the hand can feel 
Something beside, and know that it is real. 
His angels! silly creatures who could sing 
And sing again, and delicately fling 
The smoky censer, bow and stand aside 
All mute in adoration: thronging wide, 
Till nowhere could He look but soon He saw 
An angel bending humbly to the law 
Mechanic; knowing nothing more of pain, 
Than when they were forbid to sing again, 
Or swing anew the censer, or bow down 
In humble adoration of His frown. 
This was the thought in Eden as He trod -- 
. . . It is a lonely thing to be a God. 

So long! afar through Time He bent His mind, 
For the beginning, which He could not find, 
Through endless centuries and backwards still 
Endless forever, till His 'stonied will 
Halted in circles, dizzied in the swing 
Of mazy nothingness. -- His mind could bring 
Not to subjection, grip or hold the theme 
Whose wide horizon melted like a dream 
To thinnest edges. Infinite behind 
The piling centuries were trodden blind 
In gulfs chaotic -- so He could not see 
When He was not who always had To Be. 

Not even godly fortitude can stare 
Into Eternity, nor easy bear 
The insolent vacuity of Time: 
It is too much, the mind can never climb 
Up to its meaning, for, without an end, 
Without beginning, plan, or scope, or trend 
To point a path, there nothing is to hold 
And steady surmise: so the mind is rolled 
And swayed and drowned in dull Immensity. 
Eternity outfaces even Me 
With its indifference, and the fruitless year 
Would swing as fruitless were I never there. 

And so for ever, day and night the same, 
Years flying swiftly nowhere, like a game 
Played random by a madman, without end 
Or any reasoned object but to spend 
What is unspendable -- Eternal Woe! 
O Weariness of Time that fast or slow 
Goes never further, never has in view 
An ending to the thing it seeks to do, 
And so does nothing: merely ebb and flow, 
From nowhere into nowhere, touching so 
The shores of many stars and passing on, 
Careless of what may come or what has gone. 

O solitude unspeakable! to be 
For ever with oneself! never see 
An equal face, or feel an equal hand, 
To sit in state and issue reprimand, 
Admonishment or glory, and to smile 
Disdaining what has happenèd the while! 
O to be breast to breast against a foe! 
Against a friend! to strive and not to know 
The laboured outcome: love nor be aware 
How much the other loved, and greatly care 
With passion for that happy love or hate, 
Nor know what joy or dole was hid in fate. 
For I have ranged the spacy width and gone 
Swift north and south, striving to look upon 
An ending somewhere. Many days I sped 
Hard to the west, a thousand years I fled 
Eastwards in fury, but I could not find 
The fringes of the Infinite. Behind 
And yet behind, and ever at the end 
Came new beginnings, paths that did not wend 
To anywhere were there: and ever vast 
And vaster spaces opened -- till at last 
Dizzied with distance, thrilling to a pain 
Unnameable, I turned to Heaven again. 
And there My angels were prepared to fling 
The cloudy incense, there prepared to sing 
My praise and glory -- O, in fury I 
Then roared them senseless, then threw down the sky 
And stamped upon it, buffeted a star 
With my great fist, and flung the sun afar: 
Shouted My anger till the mighty sound 
Rung to the width, frighting the furthest bound 
And scope of hearing: tumult vaster still, 
Throning the echo, dinned My ears, until 
I fled in silence, seeking out a place 
To hide Me from the very thought of Space. 

And so, He thought, in Mine own Image I 
Have made a man, remote from Heaven high 
And all its humble angels: I have poured 
My essence in his nostrils: I have cored 
His heart with My own spirit; part of Me, 
His mind with laboured growth unceasingly 
Must strive to equal Mine; must ever grow 
By virtue of My essence till he know 
Both good and evil through the solemn test 
Of sin and retribution, till, with zest, 
He feels his godhead, soars to challenge Me 
In Mine own Heaven for supremacy. 

Through savage beasts and still more savage clay, 
Invincible, I bid him fight a way 
To greater battles, crawling through defeat 
Into defeat again: ordained to meet 
Disaster in disaster; prone to fall, 
I prick him with My memory to call 
Defiance at his victor and arise 
With anguished fury to his greater size 
Through tribulation, terror, and despair. 
Astounded, he must fight to higher air, 
Climb battle into battle till he be 
Confronted with a flaming sword and Me. 

So growing age by age to greater strength, 
To greater beauty, skill and deep intent: 
With wisdom wrung from pain, with energy 
Nourished in sin and sorrow, he will be 
Strong, pure and proud an enemy to meet, 
Tremendous on a battle-field, or sweet 
To walk by as friend with candid mind. 
--Dear enemy or friend so hard to find, 
I yet shall find you, yet shall put My breast 
In enmity or love against your breast: 
Shall smite or clasp with equal ecstasy 
The enemy or friend who grows to Me. 

The topmost blossom of his growing I 
Shall take unto Me, cherish and lift high 
Beside myself upon My holy throne: -- 
It is not good for God to be alone. 
The perfect woman of his perfect race 
Shall sit beside Me in the highest place 
And be my Goddess, Queen, Companion, Wife, 
The rounder of My majesty, the life 
Of My ambition. She will smile to see 
Me bending down to worship at her knee 
Who never bent before, and she will say, 
'Dear God, who was it taught Thee how to pray?" 

And through eternity, adown the slope 
Of never-ending time, compact of hope, 
Of zest and young enjoyment, I and She 
Will walk together, sowing jollity 
Among the raving stars, and laughter through 
The vacancies of Heaven, till the blue 
Vast amplitudes of space lift up a song, 
The echo of our presence, rolled along 
And ever rolling where the planets sing 
The majesty and glory of the King. 
Then conquered, thou, Eternity, shalt lie 
Under My hand as little as a fly. 

I am the Master: I the mighty God 
And you My workshop. Your pavilions trod 
By Me and Mine shall never cease to be, 
For you are but the magnitude of Me, 
The width of My extension, the surround 
Of My dense splendour. Rolling, rolling round, 
To steeped infinity, and out beyond 
My own strong comprehension, you are bond 
And servile to My doings. Let you swing 
More wide and ever wide, you do but fling 
Around the instant Me, and measure still 
The breadth and proportion of My Will. 

Then stooping to the hut -- a beehive round -- 
God entered in and saw upon the ground 
The dusty garland, Adam, (learned to weave) 
Had loving placed upon the head of Eve 
Before the terror came, when joyous they 
Could look for God at closing of the day 
Profound and happy. So the Mighty Guest 
Rent, took, and placed the blossoms in His breast. 
'This,' said He gently, 'I shall show My queen 
When she hath grown to Me in space serene, 
And say "'twas worn by Eve."' So, smiling fair, 
He spread abroad His wings upon the air.