John Henry Newman

(21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890 / London, England)

The Elements Poem by John Henry Newman


MAN is permitted much
To scan and learn
In Nature’s frame;
Till he well-nigh can tame
Brute mischiefs, and can touch
Invisible things, and turn
All warring ills to purposes of good.
Thus, as a god below,
He can control,
And harmonize, what seems amiss to flow
As sever’d from the whole
And dimly understood.

But o’er the elements
One Hand alone,
One Hand has sway.
What influence day by day
In straiter belt prevents
The impious Ocean, thrown
Alternate o’er the ever-sounding shore?
Or who has eye to trace
How the Plague came?
Forerun the doublings of the Tempest’s race?
Or the Air’s weight and flame
On a set scale explore?

Thus God has will’d
That man, when fully skill’d,
Still gropes in twilight dim;
Encompass’d all his hours
By fearfullest powers
Inflexible to him.
That so he may discern
His feebleness,
And e’en for earth’s success
To Him in wisdom turn,
Who holds for us the keys of either home,
Earth and the world to come.

Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

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