The Marvellous Work

Charles G.D. Roberts

"Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me"—Whitman

Not yet, for all their quest of it, have men
Cast wholly by the ignoble dread of truth!
Each of God's laws, if but so late discerned
Their faiths upgrew unsuckled in it, fills
Their hearts with angry fears, perchance lest God
Be dwarfed behind his own decrees, or made
Superfluous through his perfectness of deed!
But large increase of knowledge in these days
Is come about us, fraught with ill for them
Whose creeds are cut too straight to hold new growth,
Whose faiths are clamped against access of wisdom;
Fraught with some sadness, too, for those just souls
Who, clothed in rigid teachings found too scant,
Are fain to piece the dear accustomed garb,
Till here a liberal, there a literal fragment,
Here new, there old, here bright, there dark, disclose
Their vestiture a strange discordant motley.
But O rare motley,—starred with thirst of truth,
Patched with desire of wisdom, zoned about
With passion for fresh knowledge, and the quest
Of right! Such motley may be made at last,
Through grave sincerity, a dawn-clear garment!

But, for the enfranchised spirit, this expanse
Immeasurable of broad-horizoned view,—
What rapt, considerate awe it summons forth,
What adoration of the Eternal Cause!
His days unmeasured ages, His designs
Unfold through age-long silences, through surge
Of world upheaval, coming to their aim
As swerveless in fit time as tho' His finger
But yesterday ordained, and wrought to-day.
How the Eternal's unconcern of time,—
Omnipotence that hath not dreamed of haste,—
Is graven in granite-moulding aeons' gloom;
Is told in stony record of the roar
Of long Silurian storms, and tempests huge
Scourging the circuit of Devonian seas;
Is whispered in the noiseless mists, the gray
Soft drip of clouds about rank fern-forests,
Through dateless terms that stored the layered coal;
Is uttered hoarse in strange Triassic forms
Of monstrous life; or stamped in ice-blue gleams
Athwart the death-still years of glacial sleep!

Down the stupendous sequence, age on age,
Thro' storm and peace, thro' shine and gloom, thro' warm
And pregnant periods of teeming birth,
And seething realms of thunderous overthrow,—
In the obscure and formless dawn of life,
In gradual march from simple to complex,
From lower to higher forms, and last to Man
Through faint prophetic fashions,—stands declared
The God of order and unchanging purpose.
Creation, which He covers, Him contains,
Even to the least up-groping atom. His
The impulse and the quickening germ, whereby
All things strive upward, reach toward greater good;
Till craving brute, informed with soul, grows Man,
And Man turns homeward, yearning back to God.

From In Divers Tones.

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Added 22 November 2008.
Updated 22 November 2008.