The Enemy Listens

How long it has lain drowsing in my heart,
The torpid fear, half witless of its sting,
Who knows ? . . . Yet haply He has smiled apart,
All-knowing and all-silent: ay, at this,
How it uncoils slow length, awakening,
And wakes to hiss!
Here may I lean and glory in my wings
While all the stars go singing, sphere on sphere
Bound to an orbit; and with echoings
They set the darkness throbbing. Oh, I hear
How they all sing, to bind
Me, — where I poise and laugh at them like wind,
But none too near.
If He be All in All, why stays He yet
To burn moth-wings that fly athwart His will ?
If He be master, why has He not set
A hand upon my mouth, to say, Be still,
As snowfall dumbs the Earth,
And with the leaves all laughterless, her mirth
Falls brown and chill!
Why is He silent ? For the seasons shift,
A rainbow change of summer and of cold,
And light and dark, like flickering clouds that drift
Across a bubble, rose and green and gold
All in a bright dismay,
Before it vanish in a little spray :
The Earth grows old.
Yet all the while unshadowed, I take care
To lie in wait for eager ships that be
So brave to follow, — hunt them to my lair
And drag them down, a-quiver to be free,
With broken wings, until,
Struck through with fangs of lightning, they lie still
To feed the Sea.
Is He not vext ? Myself, I like them well:
They coax me like the foolish nest, unsought,
Loath to be taken, that must ever tell
Where music is. So have I often caught
The winds to pluck their sting
And send them weaponless and wandering
And good for naught.
Have I not stirred the swarms that work men ill?
Raveled time’s work ? Have I not laughed to see
How they cursed Him, unwitting of my will,
For all the bickering hate, when straight as bee
Homeward at evening,
With ruin laden every pest took wing
Homeward to me !
What have I spared save those mad stars of His
Because I would not come too near their song,
Urging to madness everything that is,
Luring to follow, drawing me along
To follow on the height,
A foolish pathway trodden into light
By all the throng !
Look how they all go timely, one and one,
To do His bidding ; they that might go free,
And do His bidding, — moon and star and sun,
Singing the spell that reaches after me!
They know not they are mad :
Even the Earth, wan drudge, goes ever sad
And bright to see.
I would not listen, — nay, I will not hear.
So the sea-tides at ebb and flow may plead
With sea-drift. So it is, if you come near,
A world would whirl you whither it may lead.
So may the wind — who knows ? —
Urge all the petals of a doubtful rose :
My rose, take heed !
I will not listen. Like a flock of birds
Circled about the tamer, set to sing
With hearts abeat to his unspoken words, —
Wild joys, all bright and unremembering, —
So it may be that each
Has faltered, trembled, felt the tamer reach
To bind his wing.
Is it His spell that measures what they sing ?
Some rhythm within His silence that they hear,
Whence all the echoes widen, ring on ring,
With all the irised light from sphere to sphere ?
Surely the currents start
Pulsing high tide from some immortal heart:
There wakes the fear.
Why does He tarry? Say I fear Him not,
Reach up and blow the stars out one by one,
Unleash, to exultations long forgot,
The planets He hath charmed: were it well done ?
Bind all the winds that be,
Shake meteors from their husks, drink of the sea,
Outstare the sun !
Would it avail ? So I make shift to break
The enringing song and scatter it through space
Like rainfall fair to see, — and if I take
The lordship on me in that desert place :
To be alone with Him
There in the void, among dead worlds left dim,
And face to face ?
What if His silence waits me, like a net
Hid in the midst of them that lure and call,
Till I — I falter, tremble, and forget
Glory and joyance to be tamed His thrall ?
Even now on tardy wing, —
Even now too long I listen, wondering
If He be All!
Josephine Preston Peabody.