Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)

The Story of a Soul



Who can say “Thus far, no farther,” to the tide of his own nature?
Who can mould the spirit's fashion to the counsel of his will?
Square his being by enactment—shape his soul to legislature—
Be himself his law of living, his own art of good and ill?

Who can sway the rhythm of breathing? Who can time his own heart beating?
Fix the pitch of all soul music, and imprison it in bars?
Who can pledge the immaterial affinities from meeting?
Who can make him his own orbit unrelated to the stars?

I had marked my path before me, not in flowery lane or by-way,
Unbeguiled of all bird-singing, by no voice of waters won;
And across life's silent glacier I had cut a clear cold highway,
Little recking of the avalanche, or all-dissolving sun.

I had said unto my soul, Be thou the lord of thine own Reason;
Get thee face to face and heart to heart with everlasting Truth;—
Thou art heir of all her beauty if thou dare the lofty treason
To clasp her and to kiss her with the valiant lips of youth.

Not in outer courts of worship, not by darkly-curtained portal,
But within her inmost chamber, in the glory of her shrine,
Shalt thou seek her and commune with her, a mortal made immortal
By the breathing of her presence, by her fervid hand in thine.

With no garment-clinging vassalage, unawed of all tradition,
Alone, alone of mortals shalt thou gaze upon her face;
And the years shall pass unheeded in the wonder of the vision,
And her attributes unfolding make thee free of time and space.

So I left the dewy levels, and with upward-pointing finger
Marked my goal among the snowy peaks o'er pleasure and o'er pain;
And the shining arms of Aphrodité beckoning me to linger
By her side amid her rosy bowers were stretched for me in vain.

And I heard the world pass by me with a far-off dreamy cadence
Of an alien music uninformed with meaning to mine ears;
And all sweet melodious laughter in the voice of men and maidens
Came with distance-saddened undertone, a mockery of tears.
Till alike the throb of pleasure and alike the great o'erflowings
Of the springs of sorrow seemed to be forgotten things of yore;
Till the world passed from beneath me, and the rumour of its goings
Far diffused into the silent ethers reached my soul no more.

And the bodiless and shadowless mute ghosts of contemplation,
Charmed from spells of bookish lore, were my companions on my way;

And their flake-light footfalls cheered me to a dreamy exaltation
Where the soul sat with the godheads, unassailable as they.

I had lost the glow of Nature; and the pride of clearer seeing
Was to me for all elation, for the sunset and the flowers,
For the beauty and the music and the savour of all being,
For the starry thrills of midnight, for the joy of morning hours.

Down the slopes I left behind me fled the creeds of many races,
Fled the gnomes of superstition, fled rebuking fiends of fear,
And I smiled as I beheld them from the calm of my high places
Cast integument and substance, melt in mist and disappear.

So I held my way unwavering in dismal mountainpasses,
Though a voice within my soul was loud, “In vain, and all in vain!”
And I heard the unassuaging streams far down in deep crevasses,
And I stumbled snowblind 'mid the boulders of the long moraine.

Still I said, I will not falter, nor revisit earth for ever,
Who have breathed the breath of deity and lived Olympian hours!
——When the summer smote the glacier, and the ice became a river,
And I found me in the valley clinging wildly to the flowers!

Clinging wildly, clinging fondly, in a mad repentant fashion,
To the blossoms long forsaken, to the graces long foregone,
Paying lavishly in tears and sighs the long arrears of passion,
And re-wedded to the joy of earth by one fair thing thereon!

Fools and blind are we who think to soar beyond the reach of Nature!
Fools and blind who think to bid the tide of feeling from its flood!
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?
Or compel the summer fervours from the solstice of the blood?

Not “as gods.” Not yet. Our roots are in the earth that heaves beneath me:
With her rhythm we move and tremble, with her starry dance we whirl.
Lo, she laughs when I would fly to where her arms shall not enwreath me,
Draws me back with cords of golden hair, o'erthrows me with a girl!

What was I to deem it duty thus to sunder Truth and Beauty—
Thus to die among the living, and to live among the dead?
Ah, the hands of Truth are boonless, and the lips of Truth are tuneless,
When we sever her from Love, and throne her coldly overhead!

Now
Font size:
 

Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:14 min read
46 Views

James Brunton Stephens

James Brunton Stephens was a Scottish-born Australian poet, author of Convict Once. more…

All James Brunton Stephens poems | James Brunton Stephens Books

FAVORITE (0 fans)

Discuss this James Brunton Stephens poem with the community:

0 Comments

    Translation

    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)

    Citation

    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:

    Style:MLAChicagoAPA

    "The Story of a Soul" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 27 Nov. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/20044/the-story-of-a-soul>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    More poems by

    James Brunton Stephens

    »

    Browse Poetry.com

    Quiz

    Are you a poetry master?

    »
    William Blake: "Tiger Tiger, burning bright, In the forests of the _________".
    • A. night
    • B. bites
    • C. knight
    • D. fight

    Our favorite collection of

    Famous Poets

    »