Poem By John Boyle O'Reilly
IS he well blessed who has no eyes to scan
The woeful things that shadow all our life:
The latent brute behind the eyes of man,
The place and power gained and stained by strife,
The weakly victims driven to the wall,
The subtle cruelties that meet us all
Like eyes from darksome places? Blessed is he
Who such sad things is never doomed to see!
The crust of common life is worn by time,
And shines deception, as a thin veneer
The raw plank hides, or as the frozen mere
Holds drowned men embedded in its slime;
The ninety eat their bread of death and crime,
And sin and sorrow that the ten may thrive.
O, moaning sea of life! the few who dive
Beneath thy waters, faint and short of breath,
Not Dante-like, who cannot swim in death
And view its secrets, but must swiftly rise,—
They meet the light with introverted eyes,
And hands that clutch a few dim mysteries!
Our life a harp is, with unnumbered strings,
And tones and symphonies; but our poor skill
Some shallow notes from its great music brings.
We know it there; but vainly wish and will.
O, things symbolic! Things that mock our sense—
Our five-fold, pitiable sense—and say
A thousand senses could not show one day
As sight infinite sees it; fruitful clay,
And budding bough, and nature great with child
And chill with doom and death—is all so dense
That our dull thought can never read thy words,
Or sweep with knowing hand thy hidden chords?
Have men not fallen from fair heights, once trod
By nobler minds, who saw the works of God,
The flowers and living things, still undefiled,
And spoke one language with them? And can we,
In countless generations, each more pure
Than that preceding, come at last to see
Thy symbols full of meaning, and be sure
That what we read is all they have to tell?