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Human Life’s Mystery

Written by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning | Biography
 | Quotes (36) |
 We sow the glebe, we reap the corn, 
We build the house where we may rest, 
And then, at moments, suddenly, 
We look up to the great wide sky, 
Inquiring wherefore we were born… 
For earnest or for jest? 

The senses folding thick and dark 
About the stifled soul within, 
We guess diviner things beyond, 
And yearn to them with yearning fond; 
We strike out blindly to a mark 
Believed in, but not seen. 

We vibrate to the pant and thrill 
Wherewith Eternity has curled 
In serpent-twine about God’s seat; 
While, freshening upward to His feet, 
In gradual growth His full-leaved will 
Expands from world to world. 

And, in the tumult and excess 
Of act and passion under sun, 
We sometimes hear—oh, soft and far, 
As silver star did touch with star, 
The kiss of Peace and Righteousness 
Through all things that are done. 

God keeps His holy mysteries 
Just on the outside of man’s dream; 
In diapason slow, we think 
To hear their pinions rise and sink, 
While they float pure beneath His eyes, 
Like swans adown a stream. 

Abstractions, are they, from the forms 
Of His great beauty?—exaltations 
From His great glory?—strong previsions 
Of what we shall be?—intuitions 
Of what we are—in calms and storms, 
Beyond our peace and passions? 

Things nameless! which, in passing so, 
Do stroke us with a subtle grace. 
We say, ‘Who passes?’—they are dumb. 
We cannot see them go or come: 
Their touches fall soft, cold, as snow 
Upon a blind man’s face. 

Yet, touching so, they draw above 
Our common thoughts to Heaven’s unknown, 
Our daily joy and pain advance 
To a divine significance, 
Our human love—O mortal love, 
That light is not its own! 

And sometimes horror chills our blood 
To be so near such mystic Things, 
And we wrap round us for defence 
Our purple manners, moods of sense— 
As angels from the face of God 
Stand hidden in their wings. 

And sometimes through life’s heavy swound 
We grope for them!—with strangled breath 
We stretch our hands abroad and try 
To reach them in our agony,— 
And widen, so, the broad life-wound 
Which soon is large enough for death.



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