A Scientist Turns Poet


I AM the Self that cannot die —
Who should know it if not I?
A mental shape, a crystal being,
With limbs beyond mere mortal seeing.
Bright distinctness! I am I:
Through the busy world I fly,
Borne on individual wing
Like the airy Eagle-King.
I possess and I destroy;
Drown in grief and swim in joy;
I mould the dull event like clay,
And speak the dooms of Yea and Nay.

I handle matter; but to boot
I attain the Absolute.
Hark what I proclaim to you —
The Good is good, and Truth is true.

My crystal limbs and comet hair
Glowed into birth I know not where.
Nor care I — enough for me
My eternal self to be.

Thus for better or for worse
I march across the Universe.
Who shall deny that I am I?
The Self that knows not how to die?

(EGO makes to speak, but is interrupted)


Energy. I am Energy. Sublime and meaningless Energy.
I stream in floods across the empty ocean
Of space, where the (island) universes float,
Each like a little lonely boat.
I set the world in motion.
Light, heat, flame, slow subtle transformation,
All destruction, all creation,
The lightest wind, the waves, the river’s slipping flow,
The busy piston, pump, cam, dynamo,
Growth of a child, unfolding of a flower,
The fall of a summer shower,
And every manifesting of human power —
There am I, that am I;
I work as I fly,
And change and am born again even as I seem to die.
You there, Self, with your Ego so proudly alone and apart,
Whence do you draw the power to utter the words you are saying?
Where do your limbs find strength for your working and playing?
And at last, when the waiting blow has broken your heart,
How will you bend your knees for your vain and contrite praying?
What I give, and no more,
Is the source of your power;
I allow from my store
What you need every hour.
You would never have been
But for my help in growing;
You are but the machine
Which my stream sets a-going.



I am eternal Time;
You see my ageless face.
I work through my unending prime
To change the look of Space.

Runner of an instant’s race,
Shrink and shrivel — I am Time.


I am the vast of Space,
Unbounded and sublime;
Matter and Energy’s market place
And the workshop of Time.
You fragmentary speck of mortal slime,
Shrink and shrivel — I am Space.


I am Matter. I am the condensation,
The kink in empty space that provides resistance,
Precious inertia — mine the sole foundation
On which swift Energy’s flow of fluid emanation
Fraternally builds reality into existence.
I am Matter. So, proud Self, are you.
You humans think you ’re everybody’s betters
Because with merely six-and-twenty letters
You write the Bible and the Daily Mail,
The Pink ’Un, Shakespeare, and the Old Wives’ Tale.
My alphabet has letters only two —
Only Yea and Nay;
Negative, minus;
Positive, plus;
Yet thus,
With nought but A and B, B and A,
I am built into every shape in the universe —
Star-clouds, comets, suns and moons,
Holy wells and desert dunes,
Race of tigers, cattle-breed,
Ferns and their invisible seed;
All human bodies, all human works;
Scots and Japs and Jews and Turks,
Jericho’s walls,
St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s,
And New York rising into the skies,
Living lips, fragrant hair, liquid eyes —
And the final corpse, the coffin, and the hearse.
I am Matter. I am the Whole. And you,
Small Self, you ’re a transitory eddy
Within that whole. Poor creature! So unready,
You self-appointed Bright Particular Star,
To know yourself for what you are —
A complicated bit of matter
That’s all puffed up because it’s learnt to chatter.


Am I not Self that cannot die?
That satisfied my need.
Is it not true that I am I?
That was all my creed.
No Athanasian mystery
Confusing common sense;
No quia impossibile
I was the evidence.
In that belief I learnt to live,
In that I meant to die,
Without a fear what Fate might give
So long as I was I.
When the feet run swift in a race,
It is I;
When the dancing limbs are all grace,
It is I;
When the light smile breaks on the face,
It is I.
It is I who smile you the smile, who dance,
who run in the race.
When the body is ground with pain,
It is I;
When dead hope quickens again —
It is I;
And the limpid thought in the brain,
It is I;
It is I who am thinker of thoughts, who hope,
who must suffer the pain.
Grim spirits — what, will you deny
I am I?
Who withstands you and gives you the lie?
It is I.
You are dead — but who lives though he die?
It is I!

It is I who assert and deny, live and die,
and conquer your heartless lie.


(In the form, of a Categorical Imperativea single voice, accustomed to giving orders)

Silence, you scum! I hear you, if not they.

(There is silence)

I am the pillar of the human temple,
In living rock my firm foundations lie
Below the obscene crypt which you inhabit.
Like your imprisoned gang, I draw my strength
From very depth and darkness; but I then
Plunge up into the light and show myself,
With every line in plumb, and every section
A perfect circle. So I grow aloft

And soar clean out of sight.
Both sides of light,
Lie waves that are but darkness of the eye;
Both sides of consciousness, octaves of mind
Extend and live in dark unconscious being.

Thus I, above the Self continuing,
Invisibly support the invisible roof —
Between the creature and t he cold of space,
Shielding him from the awful Infinite
And from a God too great to be endured.
But in that roof, from out its echoing lantern,
From harbors in its unseen sculptured stone,
Voices are born of me; and thence slip down
My vertical circle, for the Self to hear.

Still and small, or strong and clear, Remote and thin, or within
The very Ear;
Voice of counsel, voice of cheer,
The soundless voice that slaughters choice,
Voice of fear;
Voice whose sternness yet is dear.
Wayward man, do what you can,
You needs must hear.

Must, must, must!
Without me, you were only dust,
Only animal life and lust.
By my fierce imperative
I drag you up and make you live
High and hard and near the skies.
You mount, and to your climbing eyes
Horizons new-revealed appear
Over the shoulders of the sphere.