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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More Summer Lightning

Whilst I recognised the actual line about Byron in the previous post, I couldn't recall the whole poem. This one is much more the image I was after. Although, who Edward Carpenter was, I quite forgot (I have printed a wickipaedia biography at the end of the poem)

The World-Spirit
By Edward Carpenter (b. 1844)

LIKE soundless summer lightning seen afar,
A halo o’er the grave of all mankind,
O undefin├Ęd dream-embosomed star,
O charm of human love and sorrow twined:


Far, far away beyond the world’s bright streams,
Over the ruined spaces of the lands,
Thy beauty, floating slowly, ever seems
To shine most glorious; then from out our hands

To fade and vanish, evermore to be
Our sorrow, our sweet longing sadly borne,
Our incommunicable mystery
Shrined in the soul’s long night before the morn.

Ah! in the far fled days, how fair the sun
Fell sloping o’er the green flax by the Nile,
Kissed the slow water’s breast, and glancing shone
Where laboured men and maidens, with a smile

Cheating the laggard hours; o’er them the doves
Sailed high in evening blue; the river-wheel
Sang, and was still; and lamps of many loves
Were lit in hearts, long dead to woe or weal.

And, where a shady headland cleaves the light
That like a silver swan floats o’er the deep
Dark purple-stained Aegean, oft the height
Felt from of old some poet-soul upleap,

As in the womb a child before its birth,
Foreboding higher life. Of old, as now,
Smiling the calm sea slept, and woke with mirth
To kiss the strand, and slept again below.

So, from of old, o’er Athens’ god-crowned steep
Or round the shattered bases of great Rome,
Fleeting and passing, as in dreamful sleep,
The shadow-peopled ages go and come:

Sounds of a far-awakened multitude,
With cry of countless voices intertwined,
Harsh strife and stormy roar of battle rude,
Labour and peaceful arts and growth of mind.

And yet, o’er all, the One through many seen,
The phantom Presence moving without fail,
Sweet sense of closelinked life and passion keen
As of the grass waving before the gale.

What art Thou, O that wast and art to be?
Ye forms that once through shady forest-glade
Or golden light-flood wandered lovingly,
What are ye? Nay, though all the past do fade

Ye are not therefore perished, ye whom erst
The eternal Spirit struck with quick desire,
And led and beckoned onward till the first
Slow spark of life became a flaming fire.

Ye are not therefore perished: for behold
To-day ye move about us, and the same
Dark murmur of the past is forward rolled
Another age, and grows with louder fame

Unto the morrow: newer ways are ours,
New thoughts, new fancies, and we deem our lives
New-fashioned in a mould of vaster powers;
But as of old with flesh the spirit strives,

And we but head the strife. Soon shall the song
That rolls all down the ages blend its voice
With our weak utterance and make us strong;
That we, borne forward still, may still rejoice,

Fronting the wave of change. Thou who alone
Changeless remainest, O most mighty Soul,
Hear us before we vanish! O make known
Thyself in us, us in Thy living whole.

Edward Carpenter (29 August 184428 June 1929) was a socialist poet, anthologist, and an early homosexual activist.
Born in Brighton, Carpenter attended Trinity College, Cambridge before joining the church as a curate. He was heavily influenced by the minister at his church, the leader of the Christian Socialist movement. Carpenter left the church in 1874 and became a lecturer in astronomy. During this period, he moved to Sheffield to live fairly openly in a same sex relationship with George Merrill. A visit by E.M. Forster to the couple inspired Forster's novel Maurice. Carpenter was also a significant influence on the author D.H. Lawrence.
In 1883, Carpenter joined the Social Democratic Federation, and in 1885 he left to join the Socialist League. After dabbling in the Labour Church movement, and achieving growing acclaim for his Whitman-esque poetry, he became a founder member of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. His pacifism led him to become a vocal opponent of first the Boer War and then the First World War.
In the 1890s, Carpenter began to campaign against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He strongly believed that sexuality was innate. In 1908, he wrote Intermediate Sex, an important though at the time highly controversial book on the subject.
His groundbreaking 1908 anthology of poems, Iolaus - anthology of friendship was a huge underground success, leading to a more advanced knowledge of homoerotic culture. It went to a second British edition in 1906 and a third edition in 1927. The New York 1917 edition is now available as a free online e-book.
Carpenter was an infuence on photographer Ansel Adams. In his early manhood Adams was... "devoted to the comparative-religious poetry of Edward Carpenter, who had close links with the Theosophical community of Halcyon, in Southern California" (Anne Hammond, Ansel Adams: Equivalent as Expression.).


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