Hymn to Air


BECAUSE the ways of breath
Belong not to the soul,
Which may not even control
How it shall come on death;
Therefore, beholding thus
What secret and wise care
Silently follows us,
Let the soul praise the air!


Shadow of life in me,
August familiar, dear
Companion ever near
Whose form I may not see;
I, when alone I walk
With men walking, or trees,
With this enchanter talk
Of older things than these.


This breath that enters in
To warm and purify
The source of life which I
Deem all my own within,
Has felt the earth reel round
From outer space that lies
Somewhere beneath the ground,
Somewhere above the skies.


This humble unseen friend
Whom I go elbowing,—
What if it bid take wing
And in the spirit ascend
Where foot hath never trod,
Where bird hath never come,
Where man may look on God
And his thought find a home?


Joy wraps me round in air,
On mountain-heights I drink
Rapture, until I think
My being everywhere
Into the universe;
I laugh with divine mirth
To see the pretty, fierce
Babe-scramblings of the earth.


Yet, day by day more sure,
This mercy, which I praise,
Silently all my ways
Doth follow, and endure,
Buffeted, to control
The ceaseless watch of death:
I praise thee with my soul,
Delicate air, for breath.