The God of Pearl

SEEKING, they found beneath the rippling blue
Of a great Eastern Lake, a rough, harsh shell,
Whose pearl-lined doors, unfolded, gave to view
Great Buddha’s image, carved and fashioned well
Of radiant pearl. The priests of Buddha tell
That “ God who fills all nature, this can do.”
How came it there ? You unbelievers smile,
Whose Buddhas other guise and semblance take.
Yes, it is true, it came through priestly guile;
They, in their generation wise, did make
The heavenly virtues of the shell to wake,
Their God to glorify and man beguile.
Through what fierce pangs, or by what secret throe,
The shell’s strange owner could such wonders do,
They did not know, nor can I, wiser, show
What spirit stirred, what stream of life ran through
The creature’s veins, as, day by slow day, grew
The white pearl mist o’er the lead god, aglow
With soul of flame and fire and leaping blue.
The means were false, but clearly the thing said,
That “ God is everywhere ” is always true.
Yet, as the pearl still holds a lovelier red
In some new-glancing light to flash, instead
Another meaning in my fancy grew.
For once, I counted it an alien thing,
Into my life thrust by some hard, blind fate,
This new, deep sorrow, loss, and suffering,
Which limits all my powers, and seems too great
For that life’s compass to embrace; yet, “Wait!”
The legend said, and this new light did bring.
If, through my suffering, God’s image grow
To beauty in my heart, I can be still
Content that none my secret task should know,
Content that all should reach my meaning ill;
Or day and night its single purpose fill,
And life be dimmed that the new glory glow.
I may not know when sorrow’s crown is won,
Nor say, “ Behold, my slow-wrought gem is bright.”
Some other — Death, perhaps—holds to the sun
The darting splendors of its fire-thrilled white.
For, you remember, that to give it light
The shell was broken. — Well, the work was done.
Ellen Frances Taney.