The Kingdom of All-Souls

GEORGE EDWARD WOODBERRY
I HEARD in my youth of a Kingdom, lying far at the whole world’s end.
And pilgrim-wise I clothed myself in my boyhood there to wend;
Through the beautiful, the dutiful, the holy highway ran.
So was I told, and it stretched through the midst of all the glory of man;
And all men spoke of the Kingdom, when t hey looked on my face of joy,
And the souls of the dead spun the golden thread in the heart of the silent boy.
So I lived with beauty and duty long; and I flourished in noble years;
But I came not nigh to the Kingdom thereby; and my youth was thronged with fears;
For he who seeks only the Kingdom, goes lonely, however it be at the prime;
Now, in man’s estate, perplexed, desolate, I looked forward and back through time.
For a curious thing had happened in the lands where eternally
Blows the mighty breath of the Trades of Death by the old remembering sea;
Incredible was the leap and sweep of my astonished sense;
Stars in their burning unveiled to me yearning their spirit-throngs intense;
And on glimmering seas Tripolitan borne, bright as to Jacob’s eye,
I saw, all the night, forms whose substance was light move in the gold on high;
And on earth the fire-fountains and snowy mountains that first poured the power of man.
Blue blown spaces and sandy places where his racing raptures ran;
And whatever his soul has fashioned fairest, carved or painted or sung,
On my eyes, in my ears, on my moving lips, ever divinely hung.
Then was I ware in my mystic self of a discord shaping there,
And a darkness filmed my outward eye and netted the visual air;
Man in the strife of his sorrowing life had such power upon my sight;
In the stench and murk of Sicilian mines I lost my ways of light;
For a youth with a torch came gazing on me, with the nude archaic line
That I loved in the marbles of Athens, and the fire of his soul sank in mine;
The woe of his eyes, the want of his limbs, the intimate look of his soul, —
Who shall measure the wave of passion that from spirit to spirit may roll!
And, year after year, grew poverty dear; and thereat I wondered then.
That my soul issued first unto wan lives accurst in the loveliest lands of men.
Then I said to my Spirit beside me tall; ‘ I have fear — this is some charm
That the Impish Ones have wrought upon me to do me malignant harm.
That for the blood-wasted and beauty-blasted I lay bright worship by, —
Hover above it — sink in it — love it, — ’t is some charm of the Evil Eye!’
But my Spirit beside gathered height in his pride. Then a greater wonder arose,
Whereat my delicate being aloof with the horror thereof froze;
For I saw in the den of a prison-pen, on a peak of Argos’ coast,
Men whom whips compel, mould as in hell the matrix of the Host;
Murderers, thieves, and every brood of dark and heinous sin
Forged in that shed the seal of God’s Bread, that stamps Christ’s name therein.
Since then I have taken man’s hands in mine, and nevermore felt shame,
Such unearthly light upon my soul-sight in that flooding moment came;
And I mixed with all races in primitive places, wherever we might meet
In the gangway of the nations, drunken tavern, desert street;
And I saw men’s souls unsheltered and bare, as one seeth eye to eye, —
This the wonder, this the marvel, that my nature, all awry,
Trembling ever turned most truly to the lower and the worse.
Then I said, abashed, to my Spirit, who flashed; ‘ This is some terrible curse
That Heavenly Wrath sends on my path, that I lose from my soul the awe
Of all justice human, eternal, — I, who was born within the law!’
Then my Spirit brightened as a cloud that lightened; and I heard o’er confusions within
The Voice that comes over chaos when a new world shall begin;
‘I have cleansed thy eyes of beauty; I have cleansed thy heart of duty;
I am soul that brightens from thee, seeing spiritual beauty,
Greatens, doing spiritual duty; incorruptible is spirit, —
Nought to thee the vesture meaneth, gleam or gloom that men inherit;
Thou art waking in the Kingdom, where through shadows half-divined
The dark planet moves up slowly to the glory of the mind;
Fast the sensual, past the moral, now thy being newly rolls,
Thou art living, thou art breathing, in the Kingdom of All-Souls!'
I lay in the darkness hushed and o’erawed, as the sense of the words sank in, —
One human spirit that all men inherit, undeprived by their woe or their sin;
No curst servile races, no virtue-throned places! — and splendors o’er me ran.
Above me immense, gathering light intense, with the beautiful form of man.
The Spirit stood bright in angelical might, and his countenance beamed afar,
Born with our birth for dominion o’er earth. Master and Lord of our Star;
Heaven shook with the rays from his arrowy hand, and the stars in the zenith grew wan, —
I saw, I know, in that mighty glow the foregleam of some dawn;
And as a gold pillar of sunrise that flamed, and a mounting glory showered,
Majestica! over my dark form that soul of morning towered.