Thomas MacDonagh

(1 February 1878 - 3 May 1916 / Cloughjordan / Ireland)

Introit : Viii. The Golden Joy - Poem by Thomas MacDonagh

What has the poet but a glorious phrase
And the heart's wisdom? -- Oh, a Joy of gold!
A Joy to mint and squander on the Kind,--
Pure gold coined current for eternity,
Giving dear wealth to men for a long age,
And after, lost to sight and touch of hands,
Leaving a memory that will bud and bloom
And blossom all into a lyric phrase--
The glorious phrase again on other lips,
The heritage of Joy, the heart again,
Wisdom anew that ages not but lives
To Sappho-sing the Poet else forgot.

O Joy! O secret transport of mystic vision,
Who hold'st the keys of Ivory and Horn,
Who join'st the hands of Earth and Faerie!
Thou art the inmate of the hermit soul
That shuns the touch of every street-worn wind
Sweet to all else, the shuns doctrine and doubt,
To wait in trembling quietness for thee.
Thou art the spouse of the busy human mind
That bravely, sanely, bears his worldly part
And claims no favour for the gift of thee:
But, Nature's child, lives true in Nature's right,
Filling the duties of the Tribe of Man,
Keeping the heart, O Joy! untarnished still
And pinion-strong to soar the exalted way.

The Poet guards the philosophic soul
In contemplation that no importunate thought
May mar his ecstasy or change his song;
And though he see the gloom and sing of sorrow,
He is the world's Herald of Joy at last:
His song is Joy, the music that needs sorrow
To fill its closes, as Death fulfils Life,
As Life fills Time, and Time Eternity:
Joy that sees Death, yet in Death sees not woe.

O Joy! the Spring is green -- on many a wall
The roses straggle, on many a tree dew-laden;
And now the waters murmur 'neath their banks
And all the flocks are loud with firstling cries,
And in the heart of life Joy wakes anew
To live a long day ere the winter falls;
And now the song of an invisible lark,
And now a child's voice makes the morning glad;
The kindling sky and the mist-wreathed earth
Have broken from the drowsihood of night,--
Dawn widened grey, but now the orient blush
Is over all the roses on the wall,
Over the drooping trees that wait the winds
To join them to the murmur of the day.

The Pilgrim Seer who journeyed silently
When all the ways were Winter, wild and bare,
Tarries to-day to hear the call of bliss,--
Of Joy, Joy, Joy! thou emblem, symbol, sign
Of all the Pilgrim's dream of Paradise--
The Beatific Vision of Beauty supreme!
Thou art the Angel of the Gate of Heaven!
Thou art the great Vice-regent of the King!

Then forward goes and will not brook Life's house,
Yearning to dwell far away, far away,
In the wide palace of Eternity--
To hold a life beyond this birth and death
With the high Prophets in their calm sublime.--
Ah yet, in Joy's despite, his heart will keep
Memorial futile melancholy thought
Of this and some that never knew the gold!
And so he turns, bows down to toil with men,
To toil and strive and care for earthy cares;
The common life that has her claim on all
Claims him, and yet leaves him his ecstasy;
Knowing the glooms of life and the dark nights,
Sure of the dawns and the white Summer days,
He sings in twilight and the state of Job
One golden Dawn and one enduring Wealth!
So he keeps ever burning in his heart
The fire eternal that will flame and shine
When the man lies compounded with the rest
Who never knew to look upon his light,
Whose light none saw, whose lives are all forgot.
One is Eternity to common man,
Twain to the poet soul;-- though his name die,
Though after fall of years many or few
His phrases wander out of memory's fold,
His soul is twain, a heritage has he,
His dreams are children dreams and parent dreams.

What has the Poet but a glorious phrase
And the heart's wisdom? He has naught to do
With April changes that your lives endue,
Sunshine and shadow. Him your blame and praise
Trouble in calm along the spirit's ways
That are with the great Change, unchanging, true,
With the great Silence where no voice is new
And no voice old -- a train of prophet days.
What but the Golden Joy that sacred stands
As gift of Paradise to human art?
For though the lust of the world still claims and brands
All others, the Joy stands for us apart
And will not fail or tarnish touched by hands
That highly bear the trust of poet heart.

So would I rhythm and rime the glorious phrase
In this Spring lyric morning of my day,
When brown and green and nebulous silver lie
Quiet and happy 'neath the vernal pomp
Of that rich sky,--- the trees a dome of song,
Song in the waters, in the sea-born wind,
And in the human soul the Cherub hymn
Of Joy, which is the heart's philosophy.

Dear holy hymn, yet wert thou sad to hear
Matched with the dream song of the Ivory Gate
That waked a boy to rapture long ago,
That raised a boy to poet in an hour,
That the boy failed to mimic with his voice
But held heart-hid against his vocal day
And sings here to thee, Joy, this lyric morn!
For first he sang out of a book of Death
Before his day, and then with weaker voice
Chanted a resurrection, sang for Hope
All in a Spring like this, before his day.
Of Beauty now which is the light of Hope
He sings and of the Quest that cannot cease
Voyaging to Wonder on an endless road;
But chiefly and over all and through the whole
Sings yet the memory of untaught days
When dawn and dark brought to the waiting soul
The vision that he sees now through the dusk
Leading him back to thy tranquility.

I saw last night again the Unknown Land,
And, travelled far, I stood beside a sea
Whose pale waves crowding stared head over head
And mouthed warning inarticulate.
Spirits of poets they, high called and lost,
Thus missing half the Man's eternity
For gaining half the Poet's, Joy forgone.
And there by the dread waste of liquid life
My feet were set upon a living shore
Wrought of the souls that never knew the Joy
And never needed, never lost, -- all dumb
But at long rest while the waves turn and toss.
These quiet I loved more than the quick foam,
And yet the human pity at my heart
Stirred and would draw me to that passionate shame,
But that the Joy flamed and the glorious phrase
Broke into rapture: the waves wept to hear,
Wept for the exaltation once their own,
Wept for the gold they never more may spend
In mintage of the phrase upon the Kind,
Wept, wept, to scatter from the spirit's tower
The joy-notes and the glory of this song.
I hastened thence to spare them cruelty
Out through the Ivory Gate,-- and thus I know
The dream was but a symbol of the true.

It is the Spring and these the songs of Spring,
Songs of the rathe rose and the lily's hope;--
For now the Poet hears the lily call
That came to Christ from beauty's natural shrine
And, through his lips, soared sacred out and up
Into the space beyond of holiness,
The aether of the rapture of High God.
Oh! it steals to us like the breath of dawn
That fills the pipes of Nature with sweet sounds,--
Steals low and swells anon into a chant
To throb and triumph through the heart of Spring
With the clear canticle of Love that hails
The orient Epiphany of Joy.
And now the poet heart is calling too
And called aloud by every voice divine
Behind our wall out through the lattices.
Now is the season of the Golden Joy,
Now is the season of the birth of Love--
The perfect passion of the heart of God,
The rapture of the beauty of the world,
The rapture of eternity of bliss!
For all our Winters pass and all rains go,
And all the flowers of Joy appear again,
And Spring is green with figs more beautiful
And sweet with odours of the mystic Tree
That droops its branches over Heaven and Earth,
Scattering flowers and fruit and passionate wine
Down into all the places of the sun,
And into all the nether places dim,
Fragrant with ecstasy of Joy and Peace.
And who will steep his senses in the flowers
And who will feed his spirit on the fruit
And who will his veins with the great wine
Shall see no Winters and shall feel no rains
But Joy perpetual in the Land of God.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 20, 2010

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