Human Life’s Mystery by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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.