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(5 April 1837 - 10 April 1909 / London)

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Hertha

I AM that which began;
   Out of me the years roll;
   Out of me God and man;
   I am equal and whole;
God changes, and man, and the form of them bodily; I am the soul.

   Before ever land was,
   Before ever the sea,
   Or soft hair of the grass,
   Or fair limbs of the tree,
Or the flesh-colour'd fruit of my branches, I was, and thy soul was in
me.

   First life on my sources
   First drifted and swam;
   Out of me are the forces
   That save it or damn;
Out of me man and woman, and wild-beast and bird: before God was, I
am.

   Beside or above me
   Naught is there to go;
   Love or unlove me,
   Unknow me or know,
I am that which unloves me and loves; I am stricken, and I am the
blow.

   I the mark that is miss'd
   And the arrows that miss,
   I the mouth that is kiss'd
   And the breath in the kiss,
The search, and the sought, and the seeker, the soul and the body that
is.

   I am that thing which blesses
   My spirit elate;
   That which caresses
   With hands uncreate
My limbs unbegotten that measure the length of the measure of fate.

   But what thing dost thou now,
   Looking Godward, to cry,
   'I am I, thou art thou,
   I am low, thou art high'?
I am thou, whom thou seekest to find him; find thou but thyself, thou
art I.

   I the grain and the furrow,
   The plough-cloven clod
   And the ploughshare drawn thorough,
   The germ and the sod,
The deed and the doer, the seed and the sower, the dust which is God.

   Hast thou known how I fashion'd thee,
   Child, underground?
   Fire that impassion'd thee,
   Iron that bound,
Dim changes of water, what thing of all these hast thou known of or
found?

   Canst thou say in thine heart
   Thou hast seen with thine eyes
   With what cunning of art
   Thou wast wrought in what wise,
By what force of what stuff thou wast shapen, and shown on my breast
to the skies?

   Who hath given, who hath sold it thee,
   Knowledge of me?
   Has the wilderness told it thee?
   Hast thou learnt of the sea?
Hast thou communed in spirit with night? have the winds taken counsel
with thee?

   Have I set such a star
   To show light on thy brow
   That thou sawest from afar
   What I show to thee now?
Have ye spoken as brethren together, the sun and the mountains and
thou?

   What is here, dost thou know it?
   What was, hast thou known?
   Prophet nor poet
   Nor tripod nor throne
Nor spirit nor flesh can make answer, but only thy mother alone.

   Mother, not maker,
   Born, and not made;
   Though her children forsake her,
   Allured or afraid,
Praying prayers to the God of their fashion, she stirs not for all
that have pray'd.

   A creed is a rod,
   And a crown is of night;
   But this thing is God,
   To be man with thy might,
To grow straight in the strength of thy spirit, and live out thy life
as the light.

   I am in thee to save thee,
   As my soul in thee saith;
   Give thou as I gave thee,
   Thy life-blood and breath,
Green leaves of thy labour, white flowers of thy thought, and red
fruit of thy death.

   Be the ways of thy giving
   As mine were to thee;
   The free life of thy living,
   Be the gift of it free;
Not as servant to lord, nor as master to slave, shalt thou give thee
to me.

   O children of banishment,
   Souls overcast,
   Were the lights ye see vanish meant
   Alway to last,
Ye would know not the sun overshining the shadows and stars overpast.

   I that saw where ye trod
   The dim paths of the night
   Set the shadow call'd God
   In your skies to give light;
But the morning of manhood is risen, and the shadowless soul is in
sight.

   The tree many-rooted
   That swells to the sky
   With frondage red-fruited,
   The life-tree am I;
In the buds of your lives is the sap of my leaves: ye shall live and
not die.

   But the Gods of your fashion
   That take and that give,
   In their pity and passion
   That scourge and forgive,
They are worms that are bred in the bark that falls off; they shall
die and not live.

   My own blood is what stanches
   The wounds in my bark;
   Stars caught in my branches
   Make day of the dark,
And are worshipp'd as suns till the sunrise shall tread out their
fires as a spark.

   Where dead ages hide under
   The live roots of the tree,
   In my darkness the thunder
   Makes utterance of me;
In the clash of my boughs with each other ye hear the waves sound of
the sea.

   That noise is of Time,
   As his feathers are spread
   And his feet set to climb
   Through the boughs overhead,
And my foliage rings round him and rustles, and branches are bent with
his tread.

   The storm-winds of ages
   Blow through me and cease,
   The war-wind that rages,
   The spring-wind of peace,
Ere the breath of them roughen my tresses, ere one of my blossoms
increase.

   All sounds of all changes,
   All shadows and lights
   On the world's mountain-ranges
   And stream-riven heights,
Whose tongue is the wind's tongue and language of storm-clouds on
earth-shaking nights;

   All forms of all faces,
   All works of all hands
   In unsearchable places
   Of time-stricken lands,
All death and all life, and all reigns and all ruins, drop through me
as sands.

   Though sore be my burden
   And more than ye know,
   And my growth have no guerdon
   But only to grow,
Yet I fail not of growing for lightnings above me or deathworms below.

   These too have their part in me,
   As I too in these;
   Such fire is at heart in me,
   Such sap is this tree's,
Which hath in it all sounds and all secrets of infinite lands and of
seas.

   In the spring-colour'd hours
   When my mind was as May's
   There brake forth of me flowers
   By centuries of days,
Strong blossoms with perfume of manhood, shot out from my spirit as
rays.

   And the sound of them springing
   And smell of their shoots
   Were as warmth and sweet singing
   And strength to my roots;
And the lives of my children made perfect with freedom of soul were my
fruits.

   I bid you but be;
   I have need not of prayer;
   I have need of you free
   As your mouths of mine air;
That my heart may be greater within me, beholding the fruits of me
fair.

   More fair than strange fruit is
   Of faiths ye espouse;
   In me only the root is
   That blooms in your boughs;
Behold now your God that ye made you, to feed him with faith of your
vows.

   In the darkening and whitening
   Abysses adored,
   With dayspring and lightning
   For lamp and for sword,
God thunders in heaven, and his angels are red with the wrath of the
Lord.

   O my sons, O too dutiful
   Toward Gods not of me,
   Was not I enough beautiful?
   Was it hard to be free?
For behold, I am with you, am in you and of you; look forth now and
see.

   Lo, wing'd with world's wonders,
   With miracles shod,
   With the fires of his thunders
   For raiment and rod,
God trembles in heaven, and his angels are white with the terror of
God.

   For his twilight is come on him,
   His anguish is here;
   And his spirits gaze dumb on him,
   Grown gray from his fear;
And his hour taketh hold on him stricken, the last of his infinite
year.

   Thought made him and breaks him,
   Truth slays and forgives;
   But to you, as time takes him,
   This new thing it gives,
Even love, the beloved Republic, that feeds upon freedom and lives.

   For truth only is living,
   Truth only is whole,
   And the love of his giving
   Man's polestar and pole;
Man, pulse of my centre, and fruit of my body, and seed of my soul.

   One birth of my bosom;
   One beam of mine eye;
   One topmost blossom
   That scales the sky;
Man, equal and one with me, man that is made of me, man that is I.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003


Read poems about / on: tree, god, children, truth, freedom, red, strength, wind, sea, kiss, spring, mother, fire, light, heaven, sky, death, birth, sun, faith

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