Impromptu on Reading Tennyson's "Vastness."
What were it all if the eyes of the mortal could measure the limitless vastness of God?
The vastness were narrowed, the infinite cramp'd to the vision of atoms of vapour and clod.
He who rides on the wings of the winds that are viewless as dust in the shoreless abysses of space,
Is not to be compassed by man, tho' his spirit may follow the footsteps of Beauty and Grace;
May see, as in vision, the Architect building in vastness his myriad, myriad orbs;
And feel, in his own microcosmic conceptions, the reflex of Will which creates and absorbs;
And learn, with a heart which is trustful, as childhood's, with something of childhood's pure spiritual gaze,
What is hid from the doubter in infinite darkness, from the scorner in utter Cimmerian haze.
Is there God do they ask in their resolute blindness, a God who creates, and directs, and sustains?
Is there Light may they ask, when the Sun pours his splendors on pitiless caverns and desolate plains?
Is there purpose, that indicates wisdom eternal in the fitness, completeness and beauty of things?
Or merely the movements of Force moulding Matter -- blind singer, who knows not the song which he sings?
Is there goodness, if nerves that are thrilled with such transport as lifts up the human and makes it divine,
May be racked with the tortures sciatica fastens on agonised nature, from ankle to spine?
We see, altho' blind as the mole in its darkness, there is the Jehovah, the Father and God;
We feel there is light of the Light, and its brightness in darkness illumines the atom, the clod.
We know, atho' gross with a sensual stupor, His power in every breath which we draw;
And we bow to the goodness that bound all that's erring by the sharpness that roles in retributive law.
From the fountains of Morning the roseate splendors fall over the dim and insensible earth,
And all that seemed dead in the silence of darkness starts up into forms of a marvellous birth;
The light seeks the caverns and depths, where the blackness of darkness the treasures of ocean concealed,
And the wonderful growths of the forests of beauty, of russet and crimson and gold, are revealed.
For miles down the steeps of the mountains they gather, with prisms of lustre awaiting the sun,
And trail thro' the valleys unknown of by mortals, for creatures of scarlet, and azure, and dun.
Why the Maker made these for our eyes which can see not, for myriad miles beyond myriads told,
Is breathed in the Sea's semitones that say "Beauty is fashoned of Harmony, gold within gold."
Its dominant note has the same mighty meaning, and tells thro' all vastness, triumphant and clear,
The Beauty of Harmony -- God the Creator -- the Love that can fail not the Father, is here.
From the fountains of Morning, this Earth in its beauty, this glorious planet by angels was seen,
With its forests and oceans, its light and its shadow its places of lustre of gold and of green.
And Space took her kindly, and gave her a welcome as clear from the hand of her Maker she sprung,
And the lines of her orbit, unchanging for ever, were fixed by His angels, her sisters among.
And the sounds of their singing her birth-hymn, in eohoes e'en now thro' the vastness are journeying on,
To return to the care of the saints who are toiling, when their resolute toil in His service is done.
For far in the vastness of ages uncounted has man been a toiler, that marvellous Man,
And he still is a toiler, in blindness and error, towards light and towards wisdom achieving a plan.
Thro' the crucible gold finds an infinite pureness, the terrible flame is its prescient friend;
And man, thro' his strivings of hope and of sorrow of anguish and triumph, still toils for an end.
Assailed by the tyrant, maligned by the liar, betrayed in his need by the friend of his heart,
He still holds on high his invincible spirit, and true to himself acts his resolute part.
There are freedom and joy for that man of all others, tho' his home has been plundered that lies by the road;
And "three score and ten" is the least of the burthens he lifts on his back, and makes light of his load.
Peace, heart! in the light which is certainly coming, the spiritual light, second dawn of the soul,
The atoms which sprang from the Infinite Father shall see, not the parts, but the Infinite Whole
And read, with the eyes of archangels, the purpose which moved in its vastness the Infinite Will;
Until then, bow thee down in a silent adoring; it is He who hath willed it. Vain seeker, be still.First published
in The Australian Town and Country Journal
, 9 January 1886Author reference sites: Austlit
, Australian Dictionary of Biography