Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

(1840 - 1922 / England)

Body And Soul: A Metaphysical Argument - Poem by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Man openeth the case
Body, from the arrogance
Of the Soul thou seekest shield,
Makest prayer the old mis--chance
Of your birth--bond be repealed,
Since, sayest thou, the Soul would wield
Sovereign power and looks askance
At her partner in life's dance.

Tell me, Soul, why claimest thou,
Of what right, this sovereignty?
Wherefore dost thou cloud thy brow,
This thy partner standing nigh?
Scorn is written in thine eye
Watching him. Speak plain and show
All thy plaint that I may know.

The Soul speaketh
Judge most just! Wouldst ask of me
My being's secret? Ask the fire
Why he is kindled in the tree,
And why his flames mount high and higher
In scorn of the poor tortured pyre
Which feedeth him. Ask why the Sea
Thus frets her bed eternally.

The flames their kindred flames would reach;
The waves leap up towards the Moon,
And when they foam upon the beach
Grow pale like her. From morn to noon
The sun--flower turneth with the Sun.
A power there is in all and each
Should lesson thee what I would teach.

For I am subtle as the air
Which stirs the tree--tops, scattering wide
The feathered seed--blooms everywhere
And ordering all, itself unspied,
And is unchanged while all beside
Change and decay. In me no share
Is of the death these others bear.

Simple in essence I, to thee
Known but as one exiled by Fate
From her old home Eternity,
And sunk awhile from her estate
And bound to a material mate,
Through whose gross shape and quality
Alone my worth revealed may be.

Yet, shall I doubt me of the power,
Inborn in me, to seek a throne,
Although I stumble toward the hour
Which waits with death, my penance done,
Body to naught and I to run
Simple and unconditioned nor
On quality dependent more?

Or is faith nothing? O I feel
Pity for this poor thing of dust;
And that is why I bid him kneel
And be ennobled, for he must
Kneel first before his queen in trust.
Then would I strike him with my steel
And bind my spurs upon his heel.

But his mistrust defieth me,
His striving still against the bond
Which joineth us, nor will he see
Our wisdom must be straight uncrowned,
And he but perish of the wound,
In such divorcement were he free.
This is my secret, this my plea.

The Judge questioneth
Body, hast thou heard aright
How Soul thus doth thee deny?
She hath claimed in thy despite
Being from Eternity.
Hast thou ancestry as high?
Tell thy title, thou sad wight,
Else her claim will I requite. Body replieth
Wouldst thou know my lineage?
Look around thee. Thou shalt trace
From form to form, from age to age,
Fossil records of my race.
I, the latest, claim my place
Engrossed on Earth's ancestral page
By right inscribed of heritage.

Tell me, in those days long gone
Where was Soul? What then her power?
If to--day she claims a throne,
Was she fashioned me before?
Both of us old Matter bore.
I the elder was, Time's son,
Ages vast ere Soul was known.

Soul came later. My male might
Shielded her in her first cell,
She a frail fair anchorite,
Guarded by my valiance well,
Silent, sanct, intangible.
All my joy she was, and light,
A new dawning on my night.

Thus the out--set. Tryst we kept
In good concord I and she.
Mine the strength which overstepped
Her weak life's propinquity.
Or we yielded mutually;
I was weary and she slept,
She was wounded and I wept.

Happy days of growth. Ah why
Must change come with pride of youth?
She was eager, slow--foot I,
Glorious she, I all uncouth.
Her new wit showed little ruth,
Threw out cunning wings to fly,
Made as she would pass me by.

And when she found she could not win
Alone upon the blast of Time,
It irked her we were counted kin,
Until she held it me a crime
I should be matched with one sublime
And noble as she fain had been,
And last she claimed to be my queen.

Therefore from her arrogance
And her pride I make appeal
Praying this the ordinance
Of our birth--bond, grown unleal,
Thou wouldst cancel or make real.
Be our judge in this mis--chance;
Else decree deliverance. Judgement is given
I am but by your union.
With either Soul or Body lost,
All perisheth. Then work ye on
Together friends, not corpse and ghost.
To live and be is a brave boast.
Learn this; alone ye nothing can,
Yet both together ye make Man.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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