Edith Wharton

(24 January 1862 – 11 August 1937 / New York City / United States)

All Saints


All so grave and shining see they come
From the blissful ranks of the forgiven,
Though so distant wheels the nearest crystal dome,
And the spheres are seven.

Are you in such haste to come to earth,
Shining ones, the Wonder on your brow,
To the low poor places of your birth,
And the day that must be darkness now?

Does the heart still crave the spot it yearned on
In the grey and mortal years,
The pure flame the smoky hearth it burned on,
The clear eye its tears?

Was there, in the narrow range of living,
After all the wider scope?
In the old old rapture of forgiving,
In the long long flight of hope?

Come you, from free sweep across the spaces,
To the irksome bounds of mortal law,
From the all-embracing Vision, to some face’s
Look that never saw?

Never we, imprisoned here, had sought you,
Lured you with the ancient bait of pain,
Down the silver current of the light-years brought you
To the beaten round again—

Is it you, perchance, who ache to strain us
Dumbly to the dim transfigured breast,
Or with tragic gesture would detain us
From the age-long search for rest?

Is the labour then more glorious than the laurel,
The learning than the conquered thought?
Is the meed of men the righteous quarrel,
Not the justice wrought?

Long ago we guessed it, faithful ghosts,
Proudly chose the present for our scene,
And sent out indomitable hosts
Day by day to widen our demesne.

Sit you by our hearth-stone, lone immortals,
Share again the bitter wine of life!
Well we know, beyond the peaceful portals
There is nothing better than our strife,

Nought more thrilling than the cry that calls us,
Spent and stumbling, to the conflict vain,
After each disaster that befalls us
Nerves us for a sterner strain.

And, when flood or foeman shakes the sleeper
In his moment’s lapse from pain,
Bids us fold our tents, and flee our kin, and deeper
Drive into the wilderness again.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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