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From The Testament of Beauty

Written by: Robert Seymour Bridges | Biography
 | Quotes (2) |
 'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought,
discoursing at liberty with the mazy dreams
that came wavering pertinaciously about me; as when
the small bats, issued from their hangings, flitter o'erhead
thru' the summer twilight, with thin cries to and fro
hunting in muffled flight atween the stars and flowers.
Then fell I in strange delusion, illusion strange to tell; for as a man who lyeth fast asleep in his bed may dream he waketh, and that he walketh upright pursuing some endeavour in full conscience-so 'twas with me; but contrawise; for being in truth awake methought I slept and dreamt; and in thatt dream methought I was telling a dream; nor telling was I as one who, truly awaked from a true sleep, thinketh to tell his dream to a friend, but for his scant remembrances findeth no token of speech-it was not so with me; for my tale was my dream and my dream the telling, and I remember wondring the while I told it how I told it so tellingly.
And yet now 'twould seem that Reason inveighed me with her old orderings; as once when she took thought to adjust theology, peopling the inane that vex'd her between God and man with a hierarchy of angels; like those asteroids wherewith she later fill'd the gap 'twixt Jove and Mars.
Verily by Beauty it is that we come as WISDOM, yet not by Reason at Beauty; and now with many words pleasing myself betimes I am fearing lest in the end I play the tedious orator who maundereth on for lack of heart to make an end of his nothings.
Wherefor as when a runner who hath run his round handeth his staff away, and is glad of his rest, here break I off, knowing the goal was not for me the while I ran on telling of what cannot be told.
For not the Muse herself can tell of Goddes love; which cometh to the child from the Mother's embrace, an Idea spacious as the starry firmament's inescapable infinity of radiant gaze, that fadeth only as it outpasseth mortal sight: and this direct contact is 't with eternities, this springtide miracle of the soul's nativity that oft hath set philosophers adrift in dream; which thing Christ taught, when he set up a little child to teach his first Apostles and to accuse their pride, saying, 'Unless ye shall receive it as a child, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
' So thru'out all his young mental apprenticehood the child of very simplicity, and in the grace and beauteous attitude of infantine wonder, is apt to absorb Ideas in primal purity, and by the assimilation of thatt immortal food may build immortal life; but ever with the growth of understanding, as the sensible images are more and more corrupt, troubled by questioning thought, or with vainglory alloy'd, 'tis like enought the boy in prospect of his manhood wil hav cast to th' winds his Baptism with his Babyhood; nor might he escape the fall of Ev'ryman, did not a second call of nature's Love await him to confirm his Faith or to revoke him if he is whollylapsed therefrom.
And so mighty is this second vision, which cometh in puberty of body and adolescence of mind that, forgetting his Mother, he calleth it 'first Love'; for it mocketh at suasion or stubbornness of heart, as the oceantide of the omnipotent Pleasur of God, flushing all avenues of life, and unawares by thousandfold approach forestalling its full flood with divination of the secret contacts of Love,-- of faintest ecstasies aslumber in Nature's calm, like thought in a closed book, where some poet long since sang his throbbing passion to immortal sleep-with coy tenderness delicat as the shifting hues that sanctify the silent dawn with wonder-gleams, whose evanescence is the seal of their glory, consumed in self-becoming of eternity; til every moment as it flyeth, cryeth 'Seize! Seize me ere I die! I am the Life of Life.
' 'Tis thus by near approach to an eternal presence man's heart with divine furor kindled and possess'd falleth in blind surrender; and finding therewithal in fullest devotion the full reconcilement betwixt his animal and spiritual desires, such welcome hour of bliss standeth for certain pledge of happiness perdurable: and coud he sustain this great enthusiasm, then the unbounded promise would keep fulfilment; since the marriage of true minds is thatt once fabled garden, amidst of which was set the single Tree that bore such med'cinable fruit that if man ate thereof he should liv for ever.
Friendship is in loving rather than in being lov'd, which is its mutual benediction and recompense; and tho' this be, and tho' love is from lovers learn'd, it springeth none the less from the old essence of self.
No friendless man ('twas well said) can be truly himself; what a man looketh for in his friend and findeth, and loving self best, loveth better than himself, is his own better self, his live lovable idea, flowering by expansion in the loves of his life.
And in the nobility of our earthly friendships we hav al grades of attainment, and the best may claim perfection of kind; and so, since ther be many bonds other than breed (friendships of lesser motiv, found even in the brutes) and since our politick is based on actual association of living men, 'twil come that the spiritual idea of Friendship, the huge vastidity of its essence, is fritter'd away in observation of the usual habits of men; as happ'd with the great moralist, where his book saith that ther can be no friendship betwixt God and man because of their unlimited disparity.
From this dilemma of pagan thought, this poison of faith, Man-soul made glad escape in the worship of Christ; for his humanity is God's Personality, and communion with him is the life of the soul.
Of which living ideas (when in the struggle of thought harden'd by language they became symbols of faith) Reason builded her maze, wherefrom none should escape, wandering intent to map and learn her tortuous clews, chanting their clerkly creed to the high-echoing stones of their hand-fashion'd temple: but the Wind of heav'n bloweth where it listeth, and Christ yet walketh the earth, and talketh still as with those two disciples once on the road to Emmaus-where they walk and are sad; whose vision of him then was his victory over death, thatt resurrection which all his lovers should share, who in loving him had learn'd the Ethick of happiness; whereby they too should come where he was ascended to reign over men's hearts in the Kingdom of God.
Our happiest earthly comradeships hold a foretaste of the feast of salvation and by thatt virtue in them provoke desire beyond them to out-reach and surmount their humanity in some superhumanity and ultimat perfection: which, howe'ever 'tis found or strangeley imagin'd, answereth to the need of each and pulleth him instinctivly as to a final cause.
Thus unto all who hav found their high ideal in Christ, Christ is to them the essence discern'd or undeiscern'd of all their human friendships; and each lover of him and of his beauty must be as a bud on the Vine and hav participation in him; for Goddes love is unescapable as nature's environment, which if a man ignore or think to thrust it off he is the ill-natured fool that runneth blindly on death.
This Individualism is man's true Socialism.
This is the rife Idea whose spiritual beauty multiplieth in communion to transcendant might.
This is thatt excelent way whereon if we wil walk all things shall be added unto us-thatt Love which inspired the wayward Visionary in his doctrinal ode to the three christian Graces, the Church's first hymn and only deathless athanasian creed,--the which 'except a man believe he cannot be saved.
' This is the endearing bond whereby Christ's company yet holdeth together on the truth of his promise that he spake of his grat pity and trust in man's love, 'Lo, I am with you always ev'n to the end of the world.
' Truly the Soul returneth the body's loving where it hath won it.
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and God so loveth the world.
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and in the fellowship of the friendship of Christ God is seen as the very self-essence of love, Creator and mover of all as activ Lover of all, self-express'd in not-self, mind and body, mother and child, 'twixt lover and loved, God and man: but ONE ETERNAL in the love of Beauty and in the selfhood of Love.



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