The Unknown God

When , overarched by gorgeous night,
I wave my trivial self away;
When all I was to all men's sight
Shares the erasure of the day;
Then do I cast my cumbering load,
Then do I gain a sense of God.

Not him that with fantastic boasts
A sombre people dreamed they knew;
The mere barbaric God of Hosts
That edged their sword and braced their thew:
A God they pitted 'gainst a swarm
Of neighbour Gods less vast of arm;

A God like some imperious king,
Wroth, were his realm not duly awed,
A God for ever harkening
Unto his self-commanded laud;
A God for ever jealous grown
Of carven wood and graven stone;

A God whose ghost, in arch and aisle,
Yet haunts his temple—and his tomb;
But follows in a little while
Odin and Zeus to equal doom;
A God of kindred seed and line;
Man's giant shadow, hailed divine.

O streaming worlds, O crowded sky,
O Life, and mine own soul's abyss,
Myself am scarce so small that I
Should bow to Deity like this!
This my Begetter? This was what
Man in his own crude youth begot.

The God I know of, I shall ne'er
Know, though he dwells exceeding nigh.
Raise thou the stone and find me there,
Cleave thou the wood and there am I.
Yea, in my flesh his spirit doth flow,
Too near, too far, for me to know.

Whate'er my deeds, I am not sure
That I can pleasure him or vex:
I that must use a speech so poor
It narrows the Supreme with sex.
Notes he the good or ill in man?
To hope he cares is all I can.

I hope—with fear. For did I trust
This vision granted me at birth,
The sire of heaven would seem less just
Than many a faulty son of earth.
And so he seems indeed! But then,
I trust it not, this bounded ken.

And dreaming much, I never dare
To dream that in my prisoned soul
The flutter of a trembling prayer
Can move the Mind that is the Whole.
Though kneeling nations watch and yearn,
Does the primordial purpose turn?

Best by remembering God, say some,
We keep our high imperial lot.
Fortune, I fear, hath oftenest come
When we forgot—when we forgot!
A lovelier faith their happier crown,
But history laughs and weeps it down!

Know they not well, how seven times seven.
Wronging our mighty arms with rust,
We dared not do the work of heaven
Lest heaven should hurl us in the dust?
The work of heaven! 'Tis waiting still
The sanction of the heavenly will.

Unmeet to be profaned by praise
Is he whose coils the world enfold;
The God on whom I ever gaze,
The God I never once behold:
Above the cloud, beneath the clod:
The Unknown God, the Unknown God.
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