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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA
LOS ANGELES



THEOPHANIES



BY THE SAME AUTHOR



THE GREY WORLD

THE LOST WORD

THE COLUMN OF DUST

THE MIRACLES OF OUR LADY SAINT
MARY

MYSTICISM: A Study in the Nature and
Development of Man's Spiritual Con-
sciousness

THE MYSTIC WAY: A Psychological
Study in Christian Origins

IMMANENCE: A Book of Verses

PRACTICAL MYSTICISM: A Little Book
for Normal People

JOHN OF RUYSBROECK



THEOPHANIES

A BOOK OF VERSES

BY

EVELYN UNDERHILL




" Every visible and invisible creature

is a theophany or appearance of God."

John Scotus Erigena.



LONDON, PARIS ^ TORONTO
J. M. DENT ^ SONS LIMITED
NEW YORK: E. P. BUTTON ^ CO.

I 9 I 6



All rights reserved



-/
1^



FOR HILDA

Sweet fennel in our garden grows.
White lavender, and herb oj grace.
Cat-mint and thyme its edges close ;
It is a green and silver place
Where marjoram, basil, maudlein, cicely
Make scented melody.

There rosemary and balm are found
Wherewith the wounds of life are healed ;
There humble woodruf mats the ground
And hoards the magic of the field.
The holy vervein, hyssop, bergamot
Give blessing to the plot.

Those hasty hearts that hurry by
The coloured borders to applaud
Know not the hidden worlds that lie
Within these narrow cofers stored ;
Tet, to the gentle touch of those who seek,
The herbs in fragrance speak.

Then in the prudent mind's defence
Of welded thought, a breach is made
And down the alley-ways of sense
Strange poignant dreams the soul invade —
News from beyond our stubborn ramparts blown.
And here in perfume known.



vi THEOPHANIES

Those ramparts^ they are builded tall ;
But we a secret gate possess
That opens in the outer wall
What time its living latch we press :
A little emerald gate, that sets us free
Within eternity.



NOTE

Many of the following poems have already appeared
in the pages of The Quests The Nation^ The New
Weekly^ The Challenge^ and The Westminster
Gazette. " Prayer " is reprinted from the Blinded
Soldiers^ and Sailors^ Book, and " William Shake-
speare " from A Book of Homage to Shakespeare.
All these are now republished by kind permission
of the editors concerned.



vu



CONTENTS



Dedication

Mountain Flora

Dynamic Love

The Voice from the Cross

In the Train

Night on the Mountain

Cloudy Weather .

Safety

Fell Asleep .

Nebula and Nest .

Heaven — Purgatory — Hell

The Tree

Apocalypse

Continuous Voyage

On Reading Dostoieffsky

Lila, the Play of God .

The Day Before .

A London Flower Show

Primavera

John the Baptist .

Flooded Fields

Prayer ....

High Tide

Thoughts about Heaven

Nature ....

Philosophers .

The Summit . .

The Likeness



page

V

I

3
S
9

12

15
17
i8

19
23

26
29

31
33
34
37
39
41
44
46
48
SO
52
54
57
59
62



IX



THEOPHANIES



Beyond the Garden

In Patria

White Magic .

Forest Epiphany .

Death ....

Bond and Free

Friday Night

March Music .

A Portrait

Communion in Darkness

Divine Ignorance .

The Secret People

The Anchorite

Nihil longe Deo .

Thrushes

Thought's a Strange Land

Tramps ....

William Shakespeare

The Last Ignorance

The Dreamer in War-time

The Naval Reserve

England and the Soldier

Candlemas, 191 5

Any Englishwoman, May 19

The Return .

non-combatants

Invocation



page
64
66
67
70

71

72

75
78
81
84

85
86
90
93
94
95
98
100
103

105
107
108
no
112
114

"5
117



THEOPHANIES



MOUNTAIN FLORA

As the plant on the smooth of the hill

That sees not the deep and the height,

That knows not the might

Of the whole —

I am rooted and grounded in him,

The small leaves of my soul

Thrust up from his will.

I know not the terrible peak,

The white and ineffable Thought,

Whence the hill-torrents flow

And my nurture is brought.

I am little and meek;

I dare not to lift

My look to his snow.

But drink, drop by drop, of its gift.

Some say, on the face
Of that ultimate height
Small plants have their place :
Rapt far from our sight
In the solitude strange



2 THEOPHANIES

Where the infinite dream mounts range beyond

range
To the infinite sky, there they grow.

Where the intellect faints

In the silence and cold,

There, humble and glad, their petals unfold.

As the innocent bell

Of the Least Soldanella thrusts up through the

snow.
So the hearts of the saints

On the terrible height of the Godhead may dwell;
Held safe by the Will
As we, on the smooth of the hill.



THEOPHANIES



DYNAMIC LOVE

Not to me

The Unmoved Mover of philosophy

And absolute still sum of all that is,

The God whom I adore — not this !

Nay, rather a great moving wave of bliss,

A surging torrent of dynamic love

In passionate swift career,

That down the sheer

And fathomless abyss

Of Being ever pours, his ecstasy to prove.

As the glad river's Hfe

More glad becomes in music of much strife.

So does that spiritual flood

Dashed in full song,

In quick stupendous majesty of joy

The oppositions of the world among,

Come to fair crest in every breaking bud:

Yea, can the very conflict's self employ

A coloured spray of loveliness to fling

Athwart the world-wide landscape on the wing

Of every flying thing.

Dynamic love glints gay on the plume's tip
Of fat and restless wrens, tears at the heart
From the divine and vibrant bramble wreathes
That mesh the hedge with beauty. It out-breathes



4 THEOPHANIES

Fragrance of pure surrender in the smart
Of sacrificial hay-fields. On the lip
Of frail ecstatic poppies it brims up,
As flaming meditations in the soul
Drowsed with deep passion. E'en the narrow cup
Of inconspicuous vervein still the strange
And awful tincture to fulfilment brings:
There doth my Dear pursue his chemic art,
And thence distils the magic of the whole.
For Love is time, succession, ardour, change;
It is the holy thrust of living things
That seek a consummation, and enlace
Some fragment of the All in each fecund embrace
Whence life again flows forth upon its endless
chase.

Love ever moves, yet love eternal is ;

Love ever seeks, yet seeks itself to find;

And, all-surrendered to the leman's kiss.

Doth but itself with its own passion bind.

O sacred, ceaseless flow!

O wondrous meeting

Of the unchanging and the ever-fleeting.

That still by the sad way of sorriest lust

Confers a secret glory on the teeming dust.

See! by love's loss we find ourselves indeed,

See! the world's death the world's true life doth

feed.
And Love dynamic to Love's rest doth go.



THEOPHANIES 5



THE VOICE FROM THE CROSS

I

" Man, 'twas for thee

God hung upon the Cross and said, * I thirst.'

Yea ! he was broken of thy cruelty."

" Yet God was cruel first.

" His was the art

That wreathed the brow of life with thorns of

pain.
He set at his creation's very heart
A Lamb that shall be slain.

" Within the bosom of his thought
He spun the dreadful pattern of the wild;
Saw the small beasts within its meshes caught,
Said it was good — and smiled.

" His eager will

Hath taught the cat her gracious spring;

His flawless skill

Catches the blackbird on the wing,

" Contrives the parched tongue,

The gift of water long denied,

The furry field-mouse slain beside her young.

The weasel's quarry — and the way it died.



THEOPHANIES

" He made the sea: his hand
Prepared the teeming horrors of the shore,
The gasping fish tost high upon the strand,
The starving gull that tore

" Its poor quick flesh. His wisdom and his power.
Of their all-knowing choice, all things have made
In living loveliness and strength to flower
And on the Cross be laid.

" From these, the cup

He feared to drink shall never pass away;
All things that live with their Creator sup.
All things the kiss of beauty doth betray,

" Mocking with sullied breath
The life it serves and presses to its doom.
Making of every hill a place of death.
Each garden plot a tomb.

" All this his love controlled.
This he conceived, in this he found his rest :
The world his everlasting arms enfold
Lies crushed upon his breast.

" Taught thus.

Shall he be grieved that we

Out of the freedom he hath given us

Turn upon God with his own cruelty ?



THEOPHANIES

" Ruthless in might

We know ourselves to be his sons indeed
Who doth the children for the father smite,
Pollutes the guiltless seed,

" Sets the malignant fates
To play their sorry game of pleasant vice :
Then, with averted countenance, awaits
The certain issue of the loaded dice."



II

" In all that is, I dwell:

I am the Slayer, and I am the Slain.

Do thou thy deed, and all thing shall be well;

Bear thou with me my passion and my pain.

" Secure from harms

I hold embraced the living and the dead;

My generous arms

From nebula to nebula are spread.

" I am the Victim meet

Set up in every forest Calvary;

Mine is the torment of the city street.

And mine the restless sorrow of the sea.

" Yea ! not alone

In the sharp throes of man's self-conscious grief

I for the error of my world atone;

Each falling leaf

B



8 THEOPHANIES

" That dying gives its virtue to the sod,
The anguish of each mother-bird bereaved,
The patient dying beast — lo! here is God,
In these my holy spirit is conceived.

" All growing things that seek

A harmony and peace as yet unfound

Of my long passion speak;

The pregnant ground,

" The chirping cricket and exultant star,
The savage tempest and the shattered pine,
All these the members of my body are
And bear by right divine

" The fruitful pangs of my eternal birth;
Greatest and least, they share my ceaseless

strife.
In them my saving will thrusts from the earth
Toward the risen life.

" In all my creatures' deaths I too have died;
My wounded hand the rosy cross unfurled;
I, risen again, from out my riven side
Feed and renew the world.

" Mine is the Voice that cries

In wood and desert, on the clouds and waves;

And mine the sacrifice

That tortures and that saves."



THEOPHANIES



IN THE TRAIN

TRAIN full of blind eyes, rushing through the

world,
Fields lie on each side of you,
Full of life, starting with life; patient, fruitful,

creative.
Don't you see the divine light lying in the

furrows ?
Don't you feel the soft hair of the nascent corn ?

As for me, the soul spreads out from the body of

me;
It passes over all the field, and the field becomes

mine —
It and I, close-locked in passionate embrace —
And the moist ridged field gives itself up to me, all

the life of it,

1 am caressed by the childish touch of the corn.
My spirit stretches to its borders ;

I know the supple curves of resilient bramble.
The obstinate plait of the thicket.
The fringed and secret ditches with their citizens,
The gate of dead timbers that opens upon

mysterious roads —
Strange roads, crying to the pilgrim,
Where the feet of the soul may tread to the edge

of the world.



lo THEOPHANIES

All this is mine, and more, for I have the heart of

the field;
I explore with tentative touch the maternal soil,
I know the recurring beat of the life within.
For me the innocent water shines in the furrow,
Steadfastly contemplating the infinite sky
As a mirror of prayer that lays itself out to the

light.
Life is there, new life that awaits my worship;
And fading life, more holy, that dies to serve the

unborn.
Where the long hedge leans to leeward
One little sharp, upstarting leaf I find;
And deep within the hearted curl of it,
Secret and strong as the wistful dream of a

virgin,
The bud that shall bear the immortal germ on its

way —
Small, humble, uncounted,
Pricking the path the future shall tread to the

light.

Haste! haste! says the train, for life is movement

itself.
Why should we haste ? God is here.
He is within and without: though we grow tall,

he comes no nearer;
Though we make haste, the earth flies faster still.
Ceaselessly treading her ritual dance in the skies.
Yet never removed from her place on the bosom of

God.



THEOPHANIES n

You shall not achieve him, train scampering

through the world;
You shall not achieve him, souls adventuring in

the void.
Under the curve of my hedge is a Hfe more lovely.
Not sad! not ambitious!
Meek, faithful, august;
Beautifully moving towards the bridal of death.



12 THEOPHANIES



NIGHT ON THE MOUNTAIN

I

Night on the mountain. Soon I may not see
The sharp and spreading map,
The chequer-world of man's hard husbandry.
Comes white as wool the cloud veil that shall cap
The peak whereon I stand and stretch to thee.

Night on the mountain. Soft and silently

Out from their little dens the furred things creep :

They will not sleep

With valley-dwelling man, but wake to thee.

The fox from out its hole, the night bird from its

nest,
I with the rest.

Yet not from any dear and hearted home
But from long exile come.

Long exile in the puzzling world, when all

Thy veils were close and bright

And picture set; yea, as a storied pall

Concealed thy night.

Long pilgrimage within the twisting lanes,

The deep and scented lanes, that wandered slow

Athwart the sleek profusion of the plains

But dared not seek

The solitary peak

To which thy lovers go.



THEOPHANIES 13

Now the old words that once were mine and thine

Come to the hps and echo in the ear,

Now the white cloud draws near

And stills the restless limbs and shuts the peering

sight
From all thing save thy night —
The caverned door of our unshuttered shrine.



II

Strange, holy night, Eternity's caress,

Most apt for happy lovers to enjoy;

Thou dost redeem the foolish dreams of men

Bewildered by the dreadful day's employ.

How the white flowers upon thy breast do burn

And tell thy dark excesses. Thou dost turn

Each candid primrose to a moon of light;

Thou dost enchant the Angers of the fern

Stretched from the woodland to assoil our sight

From the sharp day's distress.

When homely shapes put on a priestly dress.

When from the dewy fields new presences arise

And grave trees standing there

Lift up great arms in prayer;

When the dim ground

Hath soft mysterious movements of desire

And every hili converses with the skies —

'Tis then

Our little star at home in heaven is found.

And we and it are gathered to thy heart.

Then muted adoration hath its part,



14 THEOPHANIES

Then comes the hush of grace and wraps us round,

Then comes the flame of love and gives us of its fire.

Then, undistracted by the heady sun.

We are with thee as once ere all began,

Made partners with the ardent worlds that run

Across thy bosom's span;

Knowing themselves to be

Radiant of love and light because they rest in thee.

Dear night, I love thee. Take me by the hand,

Make thou the ferment of my thought to cease.

Teach me thy wisdom. Let me understand

Thine unstruck music. Give my soul release

From the day's glare and din.

Lift thou the latch, that I may push the gate

And let my Darling in.

He stands without, he wearies not to wait

Before my threshold till

Thou hast made all things proper to our state

And every voice is still.

Then thou and he shall enter side by side.

Thy banner shall he set above his bride,

The curtains of thy splendour shall be spread

About our marriage bed.



THEOPHANIES 15



CLOUDY WEATHER

The sky was broidered o'er with cloud to-day,
Wonderful to the sight :
Golden and grey,
Sombre and pale,
Silver and white.
Pinnacled fanes were there, and little flocks at

play;
And who should miss the heavens, when this their
veil

So great is, and so gay ?

But as I watched there came a little breeze,
And moved them to more wondrous fantasies.

And took their shapes, and hurled
Cloud-world incredible upon cloud-world.

And lo! a sudden rift;

And there peeped out at me
One little magic patch of innocence
Most sweet to see,

That did the heart uplift,
And carry thence
Into the unwalled solitudes of light

My sad industrious sight.
That was so busy with the cloud's pretence.



i6 THEOPHANIES

purging wind !
Blow down the skies again,
Scatter the clever cloud-drift of the mind,
The strangely sculptured vapours of the brain;

And let his blue

Peep through.
One little space of clear.
That steadfast smiles between the moving thought
All in grey mazes wrought :

As the deep glance

Suddenly caught
Of loving eyes that watch us through the dance,

Mimics his art.
And strikes a blessed stillness to the heart.

And says: "My Dear!"



THEOPHANIES 17



SAFETY

Most wonderful, most deep security

That circles in the soul at hours of pain.

When the assaulting harms

Of death and love and treachery set on,

When we must con

The dreadful lessons of mortality;

Then do we know the pressure of thine arms!

Held to thy heart

Shall we complain

That here we find our sharpest griefs again ?

Within that wide and piteous embrace

All torment, as all rapture, finds a place.

Give me a part,

Exultant anguish cries aloud to thee.

In the sharp pangs of thy felicity —

The hard perpetual birth

Of beauty, music, mirth —

For I would share

E'en thy self-mergence in the world's despair.

Lifted with the long movement of thy breath.

That draws toward the secret sum of life

And outward rushes to the world of death,

Gladly I go

From utmost ecstasy to sorriest strife.

For well I know

It is the Heart of God that sways me so:

Thereon I rest, therewith I sweetly move,

Rocked by the rhythmic process of his love.



i8 THEOPHANIES



FELL ASLEEP
M. C, November i6th, 191 3

He does not sleep.

How could that eager mind be stilled by death ?

How shall the heart that did such commerce keep

Cease with the body's breath

To throb with the world's joys and agonies ?

These were his life, and these

His life shall be :

The love-emblazoned robes of immortahty.

Lo ! the free soul, that once the brain did fret

With dreadful limitations, and make vain

Its upward-soaring passion, doth forget

That intellectual pain.

Joyful it spreads its wings

On the one ultimate flight toward the edge of

things ;
Yet does not roam
From the remembering heart, wherein it makes its

home.



THEOPHANIES 19



NEBULA AND NEST

I

1 HAVE fled far!

I have not stayed my quest for any star

That in my pathway stood

And sang in the soul's ear,

"Behold the Good!"

But I have sought the sphere

Wherein his thought immense —

His love, his dream.

His ardent seeking sense

Of uttermost exactitudes that seem

All novelty and flow and wilful change —

Crest upward first toward creative joy:

And from the dreadful range

Of absolute and unconditioned Mind

Door of deliverance find

In sweet employ.

I stretched upon his storm my fragile wings.

And went with the great wind

That poured its music through the frame of things.

Dreadful was the embrace

To which we rushed beyond the edge of space :

For he that is all-loving would immerse

His fulhead in the Nought,

His immemorial thought



20 THEOPHANIES

Utter through strife.

Yea! as melodic fire

That sought the consummation of desire

All down the exultant trumpet of the skies,

Athwart the spreaded strings

Of vibrant light,

There was our flight,

And as a speedful song was our emprize.

So have I seen the sacred stream of life

In one swift act sublime

Enter our universe;

The bridal of eternity and time.

Then in the womb of darkness there began

Soft movements of maternal energy,

And golden filaments of life that ran

Athwart the dim.

Then first was laid the plan

That builded upward to the soul of man

And bore to him

Far in the wild

A veritable child.



Yea, I have travelled far,
I have not stayed my quest for any star
Nor found in any sun the light I need:
Authentic converse with the unconfined
This might alone suffice mine avid mind,
This might alone my hungry spirit feed.



THEOPHANIES 21

Now in and in I come,

Out of the mists of distant nebulae

Swing again home :

Entering at last,

The edgeless solitudes of God o'erpassed.

That one warm narrow place

Where mind is free

From the terrific liberties of space

And the heart best

Can make for him a nest.

And as the palmer, coming home again

From the sweet Sepulchre,

Finds Christ afield amongst his fellow men

And summed in her

Who waits him, all his portion of that grace

Which shone from Mary's face:

So the pale skies

All lucent with God's love

And the swift cloudy spirits that arise

Wistful of some unthought divine surprise

Full friendly prove

To this my quest, and heal my hungry pain.

Yet softly say, " In vain

Thy pilgrim's scrip and all thy traveller's state.

As we around the earth in pageant go

Yet to no goal attain.

Thou dost but tread the orbit of thy brain

In thine ecstatic flight

That would achieve his dread excess of bright.

Not so

The limited the Limitless may know.



22 THEOPHANIES

Wait, pilgrim, wait !

Cleanse thou thy sight.

Prepare thine ear,

To see him in his light.

The flowering of his melody to hear.

His feet are on the road : stay thou at home.

He shall appoint a meeting when he come."



HI

How still it is !

And yet there's music here,

Music alone goes with me all the way

Divinely clear.

Thou dost beat out at me

From the leaves of the chestnut tree.

Here at my window peeping as I pray,

Thy very Self-hood's bliss

In life's rich fugue confessed;

Thy heart's dear melody

By crescent form expressed.

And I, that all the fervours of the abyss

Might not delay.

Am caught in thy bird's nest —

Meet shelter of the smallest soul that sings —

Find, nestling warm against a feathery breast,

My long-sought rest.

And fold my weary wings.



THEOPHANIES 23



HEAVEN— PURGATORY— HELL

"The soul, when it departs from the body, needs not to go far:
for where the body lies, there is Heaven and Hell." — Jacob Boehme.

Close-ranked within my room they stand,

The holy spirits of the dead.

Some grope the air with piteous hand

Of newly blind, who would be led

They know not where, and cannot rest :

But some with seeing eyes are blest.

A solemn light enfolds them all :
It is a light they never knew.
To some it is a fiery pall
That burns their vision ; but a few,
With closed eyes, in ecstasy
Rejoice within the flame to be.

For these are they that eager sought
The love which purges earthly stain,
And lavenders the tainted thought
And brings its fragrance back again :
Content its anguish to endure
If so their vision may be pure.

Steadfast they stand : they do not fear
The faithful sculpture of the flame
That makes the holy outline clear
And brings to light the hidden name —



24 THEOPHANIES

Long hid beneath the rust of earth —
Which scaled the splendour of their birth.

But some there are who cannot stay
And bear the burning of the fire :
Pursued upon their endless way
By onslaughts of unstilled desire
As by a rushing hungry wind,
They have no skill release to find.

On bafHing gales of passion driven
They sweep the peaceful ranks above;
As scudding clouds, by tempest riven,
Across the starry spaces move
And cast their tattered shadows down
On patient field and ordered town.

Sad, fevered lovers who in vain

Pursue the last consummate hour,

Some final ecstasy to drain.

Its dread sufficing sweets devour —

So, by the lust of God possessed.

The damned pursue their ceaseless quest.

Avid they are, they know not why ;

They seek, and know not what they crave;

But' stream across that homely sky

Wherefrom the blest all comfort have.

Fiercely they hunt their final bhss.

Nor mark the changeless joys they miss —



THEOPHANIES 25

The glad surrender of the bright
And sparkhng souls, that unafraid,
Deep drowned within the burning light
Are partners of its radiance made;
Nor know themselves, save as they shine
Within the heart of Love divine.

All have they found, for all they lost.
Nor restless sought their own to win;
But reckoning not the final cost
They plunged the healing flame within,
As happy swimmers bold to leap
And trust their bodies to the deep.

All souls within my room are met :
Here glows the heavenly light and fire,
Here is the place of cleansing set,
And here the hell of false desire.
Yea ! here is God, in whose embrace
Each living spirit finds its place.



26 THEOPHANIES



THE TREE

Spread, delicate roots of my tree,

Feeling, clasping, thrusting, growing;

Sensitive pilgrim root tips roaming everywhere.

Into resistant earth your filaments forcing,

Down in the dark, unknown, desirous :

The strange ceaseless life of you, eating and drink-


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