Freedom and Law

Wildest wind that shakes the blossoms,
Or on ocean chafes and swells,
Blows not uncontroll'd and wanton,
But as Law compels.

Streams that wander and meander,
Loitering in the meads to play,
Or that burst in roaring torrents
Into foam and spray.

Avalanches, forest-crushing,
Fires that rage in Etna's breast,
Lava-floods and tides of ocean,
All obey the same behest.

Law releases, Law restrains them: —
Lo! the Moon, her forehead bent
Earthward, makes her revolution,
Docile, beauteous, and content.

Lo! the Earth, her mighty mistress,
In her own appointed place,
Yields, like her, sublime obedience
To the Law that governs space.

And the godlike Sun, exhaling
Light and Life from every pore,
On his axis, law-directed,
Wheels majestic evermore;

Bearing with him to Orion
All the worlds that round him shine,
To complete the awful cycle
Of a destiny divine.

While the Stars and Constellations,
Glowing in eternal light,
Teach the Majesty of Order,
And that Law is Infinite.

Is the immortal spirit freer,
Mated with its mortal clod?
Lo! it soars, and, faith-supported,
Claims affinity with God.

Proudly it disdains the shackles
Of the frame to which it clings,
And would fly to heights celestial
Upon Love's angelic wings.

But the hand of Law restrains it;
Narrow is the widest span,
Measured by the deeds or efforts
Of the aspiring soul of man.

Like the imprison'd lark, that carols
To salute the dawning day,
It can see the sky, and gather
Hope and rapture from its ray.

It can see the waving branches
Of its long-lost happy bowers,
It can feel the heavenly breezes,
And the scent of meadow flowers.

But if it would strive to reach them,
It is doom'd to fruitless pain,
And with bleeding bosom struggles
At its prison-doors in vain.

If the mind be less entrammel'd,
And is freed from sensual bound;
Still the Law restrains and moulds it,
And attracts it to the ground.

Like the young rejoicing Eaglet,
Knowing nought of gyves and bars,
It may imp its virgin pinions
By a flight towards the stars; —

High above the sterile Andes,
Or the Himalayan snow,
Breasting ether, robed in sunlight,
Unimpeded it may go.

But a Law has placed its limits,
And to pass them should it dare,
Numbness falls upon its pinions,
Death o'ercanopies the air.

Such thy fate, terrestrial spirit; —
Such thy freedom; — thou may'st soar
To the empyrean summits,
Where no mortal breathed before.

But Infinitude surrounds thee;
Nature stays thee in thy flight;
Thou must turn thee, or be stricken
Powerless on thy topmost height.

Thou must travel lower, lower, —
Nearer to the earthly mould —
Safer for thee — there to fashion
New ideas out of old.

There to judge of the unfathom'd
By the things within thy ken,
Of the ways of God Eternal
By the futile ways of men.

Yet, oh soul! there's F REEDOM for thee;
Thou may'st win it; — not below; —
Not on earth with mortal vesture,
Where to love, to feel, to know,

Is to suffer; but unfetter'd,
Thou may'st spring to riper life,
Purified from Hate and Evil,
And Mortality and Strife.

Death is gaoler; he'll release thee;
Through his portals thou shalt see
The perfection that awaits thee,
If thou'rt worthy to be free.

Be thou meek; to exaltation —
Death shall give thee wings to soar;
Loving God, and knowing all things,
Upwards springing evermore.
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