BROAD were the bases of all being laid
On pillars sunk in the unfathomed deep
Of universal void and primal sleep.
Some mighty will there was, in sooth, that swayed
The misty atoms which inhabited
The barren, unillumined fields of space;
A breath, perchance, that whirled the mists apace,
And shook the heavy indolence that weighed
Upon the moveless vapors. Oh, what vast,
Resounding undulations of effect
Awoke that breath! What dizzying aeons passed
Ere yet a lichen-patch the bare rock flecked!
Thus rolls with boom of elemental strife
The ancestry e'en of the meanest life.
I am the child of earth and air and sea!
My lullaby by hoarse Silurian storms
Was chanted; and through endless changing forms
Of plant and bird and beast unceasingly
The toiling ages wrought to fashion me.
Lo, these large ancestors have left a breath
Of their strong souls in mine, defying death
And change. I grow and blossom as the tree,
And ever feel the deep-delving earthy roots
Binding me daily to the common clay.
But with its airy impulse upward shoots
My life into the realms of light and day;
And thou, O Sea, stern mother of my soul,
Thy tempests sing in me, thy billows roll!
A sacred kinship I would not forego
Binds me to all that breathes; through endless strife
The calm and deathless dignity of life
Unites each bleeding victim to its foe.
What life is in its essence, who doth know?
The iron chain that all creation girds
Encompassing myself and beasts and birds,
Forges its bond unceasing from below—
From water, stone, and plant, e'en unto man.
Within the rose a pulse that answered mine
(Though hushed and silently its life-tide ran)
I oft have felt; but when with joy divine
I hear the song-thrush warbling in my brain,
I glory in this vast creation's chain.
I stood and gazed with wonder blent with awe
Upon the giant footprints Nature left
Of her primeval march in yonder cleft;
A fern-leaf's airy woof, a reptile's claw,
In their eternal slumber there I saw
In deftly-wrought sarcophagi of stone.
What humid tempests, from rank forests blown,
Whirled from its parent stem yon slender straw?
What scaly creature of a monstrous breed
Bore yonder web-foot through the tepid tide?
Oh, what wide vistas thronged with mighty deed
And mightier thought have here mine eyes descried!—
Come, a fraternal grasp, thou hand of stone!
The flesh that once was thine is now mine own.
Sublime is life, though in beginnings base
At first enkindled. In this clod of mold
Beats with faint spirit-pulse the heart of gold
That warms the lily's cheek; its silent grace
Dwells unborn 'neath this sod. Fain would I trace
The potent mystery which, like Midas' hand,
Thrills the mean clay into refulgence grand;
For, gazing down the misty aisles of space
And time, upon my sight vast visions throng
Of the imperial destiny of man.
The life that throbbed in plant and beast ere long
Will break still wider orbits in its van—
A race of peace-robed conquerors and kings,
Achieving evermore diviner things.
—From "Idyls of Norway."