Edward Dowden

(3 May 1843 - 4 April 1913 / Co. Cork / Ireland)

The Initiation - Poem by Edward Dowden

UNDER the flaming wings of cherubim
I moved toward that high altar. O, the hour!
And the light waxed intenser, and the dim
Low edges of the hills and the grey sea
Were caught and captur’d by the present Power,
My sureties and my witnesses to be.

Then the light drew me in. Ah, perfect pain!
Ah, infinite moment of accomplishment!
Thou terror of pure joy, with neither wane
Nor waxing, but long silence and sharp air
As womb-forsaking babes breathe. Hush! the event
Let him who wrought Love’s marvellous things declare.

Shall I who fear’d not joy, fear grief at all?
I on whose mouth Life laid his sudden lips
Tremble at Death’s weak kiss, and not recall
That sundering from the flesh, the flight from time,
The judgements stern, the clear apocalypse,
The lightnings, and the Presences sublime.

How came I back to earth? I know not how,
Nor what hands led me, nor what words were said.
Now all things are made mine,—joy, sorrow; now
I know my purpose deep, and can refrain;
I walk among the living, not the dead;
My sight is purged; I love and pity men.

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Read poems about / on: joy, fear, grief, sorrow, silence, kiss, power, light, pain, sea, death

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

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