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A Creature Catechism

Soul, what art thou in the tribes of the sea?

LORD, said a flying fish, 
Below the foundations of storm 
We feel the primal wish 
Of the earth take form.
Through the dim green water-fire We see the red sun loom, And the quake of a new desire Takes hold on us down in the gloom.
No more can the filmy drift Nor draughty currents buoy Our whim to its bent, nor lift Our heart to the height of its joy.
When sheering down to the Line Come polar tides from the North, Thy silver folk of the brine Must glimmer and forth.
Down in the crumbling mill Grinding eternally, We are the type of thy will To the tribes of the sea.
II Soul, what art thou in the tribes of the air Lord, said a butterfly, Out of a creeping thing, For days in the dust put by, The spread of a wing Emerges with pulvil of gold On a tissue of green and blue, And there is thy purpose of old Unspoiled and fashioned anew.
Ephemera, ravellings of sky And shreds of the Northern light, We age in a heart-beat and die Under the eaves of night.
What if the small breath quail, Or cease at a touch of the frost? Not a tremor of joy shall fail, Nor a pulse be lost.
This fluttering life, never still, Survives to oblivion’s despair.
We are the type of thy will To the tribes of the air.
III Soul, what art thou in the tribes of the field? Lord, said a maple seed, Though well we are wrapped and bound, We are the first to give heed, When thy bugles give sound.
We banner thy House of the Hills With green and vermilion and gold, When the floor of April thrills With the myriad stir of the mould, And her hosts for migration prepare.
We too have the veined twin-wings, Vans for the journey of air.
With the urge of a thousand springs Pent for a germ in our side, We perish of joy, being dumb, That our race may be and abide For aeons to come.
When rivulet answers to rill In snow-blue valleys unsealed, We are the type of thy will To the tribes of the field.
IV Soul, what art thou in the tribes of the ground? Lord, when the time is ripe, Said a frog through the quiet rain, We take up the silver pipe For the pageant again.
When the melting wind of the South Is over meadow and pond, We draw the breath of thy mouth, Reviving the ancient bond.
Then must we fife and declare The unquenchable joy of earth,— Testify hearts still dare, Signalize beauty’s worth.
Then must we rouse and blow On the magic reed once more, Till the glad earth-children know Not a thing to deplore.
When rises the marshy trill To the soft spring night’s profound, We are the type of thy will To the tribes of the ground.
V Soul, what art thou in the tribes of the earth? Lord, said an artist born, We leave the city behind For the hills of open morn, For fear of our kind.
Our brother they nailed to a tree For sedition; they bully and curse All those whom love makes free.
Yet the very winds disperse Rapture of birds and brooks, Colours of sea and cloud,— Beauty not learned of books, Truth that is never loud.
We model our joy into clay, Or help it with line and hue, Or hark for its breath in stray Wild chords and new.
For to-morrow can only fulfil Dreams which to-day have birth; We are the type of thy will To the tribes of the earth.

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