Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/January 1878/Teachings of a Day

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WHAT'S the text to-day for reading

Nature and its being by?
There is effort all the morning
Through the windy sea and sky.

All, intent in earnest grapple,
That the All may let it be:
Force, in unity, at variance
With its own diversity.

Force, prevailing unto action:
Force, persistent to restrain:
In a twofold, one-souled wrestle,
Forging Being's freedom-chain.

Frolic! say you—when the billow
Tosses back a mane of spray?
No; but haste of earnest effort;

Nature works in guise of play.
Till the balance shall be even

Swings the to and fro of strife;
Till an awful equilibrium
Stills it, beats the Heart of Life.

What's the text to-day for reading
Nature and its being by?
Effort, effort all the morning,
Through the sea and windy sky.


Purple headland over yonder,
Fleecy, sun-extinguished moon,
I am here alone, and ponder
On the theme of Afternoon.

Past has made a groove for Present,
And what fits it is: no more.
Waves before the wind are weighty;
Strongest sea-beats shape the shore.

Just what is is just what can be,
And the Possible is free;
'Tis by being, not by effort,
That the firm cliff juts to sea.

With an uncontentious calmness
Drifts the Fact before the "Law;"
So we name the ordered sequence
We, remembering, foresaw.

And a law is mere procession
Of the forcible and fit;
Calm of uncontested Being,
And our thought that comes of it.

In the mellow shining daylight
Lies the Afternoon at ease,
Little willing ripples answer
To a drift of casual breeze.

Purple headland to the westward!
Ebbing tide and fleecy moon!
In the "line of least resistance"

Flows the life of Afternoon.


Gray the sky, and growing dimmer,

And the twilight lulls the sea;
Half in vagueness, half in glimmer,
Nature shrouds her mystery.

What have all the hours been spent for?
Why the on and on of things?
Why eternity's procession
Of the days and evenings?

Hours of sunshine, hours of gloaming,
Wing their unexplaining flight,
With a measured punctuation
Of unconsciousness, at night.

Just at sunset was translucence,
When the west was all aflame;
So I asked the sea a question,
And an answer nearly came.

Is there nothing but Occurrence?
Though each detail seem an Act,
Is that whole we deem so pregnant,
But unemphasized Fact?

Or, when dusk is in the hollows
Of the hill-side and the wave,
Are things just so much in earnest
That they cannot but be grave?

Nay, the lesson of the Twilight
Is as simple as 'tis deep;
Acquiescence, acquiescence,
And the coming on of sleep.


There are sea and sky about me,
And yet nothing sense can mark;
For a mist fills all the midnight,
Adding blindness to its dark.

There is not the faintest echo
From the life of yesterday:
Not the vaguest stir foretelling

Of a morrow on the way.
'Tis negation's hour of triumph,

In the absence of the sun;
'Tis the hour of endings, finished,
Of beginnings unbegun.

Yet the voice of awful silence
Bids my waiting spirit hark;
There is action in the stillness,
There is progress in the dark.

In the drift of things and forces,
Comes the better from the worse,
Swings the whole of Nature upward,
Wakes, and thinks—a universe.

There will be more life to-morrow,
And of life, more life that knows;
Though the sum of force be constant,
Yet the Living ever grows.

So we sing of Evolution,
And step strongly on our ways,
And we live through nights in patience,
 And we learn the worth of days.

In the silence of murk midnight
Is revealed to me this thing:
Nothing hinders, all enables

Nature's vast awakening.