Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
INCOMPREHENSIBILITY OF GOD.
WHERE art thou? Thou! Source and Support of all
That is or seen or felt; Thyself unseen,
Unfelt, unknown—alas! unknowable!
I look abroad among thy works: the sky,
Vast, distant, glorious with its world of suns,
Life-giving earth, and ever-moving main,
And speaking winds, and ask if these are Thee!
The stars that twinkle on, the eternal hills,
The restless tide's outgoing and return,
The omnipresent and deep-breathing air—
Though hailed as gods of old, and only less—
Are not the Power I seek; are thine, not Thee!
I ask Thee from the past; if in the years,
Since first Intelligence could search its source,
Or in some former, unremember'd being
(If such, perchance, were mine), did they behold Thee?
And next interrogate Futurity—
So fondly tenanted with better things
Than e'er experience own'd—but both are mute;
And past and future, vocal on all else,
So full of memories and phantasies,
Are deaf and speechless here! Fatigued, I turn
From all vain parley with the elements;
And close mine eyes, and bid the thought turn inward.
From each material thing its anxious guest,
If, in the stillness of the waiting soul,
He may vouchsafe himself, Spirit to spirit!
Oh Thou, at once most dreaded and desired,
Pavilion'd still in darkness, wilt thou hide thee?Page 258
What though the rash request be fraught with fate,
Nor human eye may look on thine and live?
Welcome the penalty! let that come now
Which soon or late must come. For light like this
Who would not dare to die?
Peace, my proud aim,
And hush the wish that knows not what it asks.
Await his will, who hath appointed this
With every other trial. Be that will
Done now as ever. For thy curious search,
And unprepared solicitude to gaze
On Him—the Unreveal'd—learn hence, instead,
To temper highest hope with humbleness.
Pass thy novitiate in these outer courts,
Till rent the veil, no longer separating
The holiest of all; as erst disclosing
A brighter dispensation; whose results
Ineffable, interminable, tend
E'en to the perfecting thyself, thy kind,
Till meet for that sublime beatitude,
By the firm promise of a voice from heaven
Pledged to the pure in heart!