Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 327. The Paradox
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
327. The Paradox
By Alfred Noyes  (b. 1880)
  
‘I Am that I Am’

I

ALL that is broken shall be mended;
  All that is lost shall be found;
  I will bind up every wound
When that which is begun shall be ended.
Not peace I brought among you but a sword        5
  To divide the night from the day,
When I sent My worlds forth in their battle-array
  To die and to live,
  To give and to receive,
    Saith the Lord.       10
 
II

Of old time they said none is good save our God;
But ye that have seen how the ages have shrunk from my rod,
And how red is the wine-press wherein at my bidding they trod,
Have answered and said that with Eden I fashioned the snake,
That I mould you of clay for a moment, then mar you and break,       15
And there is none evil but I, the supreme Evil, God.
  Lo, I say unto both, I am neither;
  But greater than either;
For meeting and mingling in Me they become neither evil nor good;
Their cycle is rounded, they know neither hunger nor food,       20
They need neither sickle nor seed-time, nor root nor fruit,
  They are ultimate, infinite, absolute.
Therefore I say unto all that have sinned,
  East and West and South and North
  The wings of my measureless love go forth       25
To cover you all: they are free as the wings of the wind.
 
III

Consider the troubled waters of the sea
  Which never rest;
As the wandering waves are ye;
  Yet assuaged and appeased and forgiven,       30
  As the seas are gathered together under the infinite glory of heaven,
  I gather you all to my breast.
But the sins and the creeds and the sorrows that trouble the sea
  Relapse and subside,
Chiming like chords in a world-wide symphony       35
  As they cease to chide;
For they break and they are broken of sound and hue,
And they meet and they murmur and they mingle anew,
Interweaving, intervolving, like waves: they have no stay
They are all made as one with the deep, when they sink and are vanished away;       40
  Yea, all is toned at a turn of the tide
  To a calm and golden harmony;
  But I—shall I wonder or greatly care,
    For their depth or their height?
  Shall it be more than a song in my sight       45
  How many wandering waves there were
  Or how many colours and changes of light?
    It is your eyes that see
  And take heed of these things: they were fashioned for you, not for Me.
 
IV

With the stars and the clouds I have clothed Myself here for your eyes
       50
To behold That which Is. I have set forth the strength of the skies
As one draweth a picture before you to make your hearts wise;
That the infinite souls I have fashioned may know as I know,
  Visibly revealed
  In the flowers of the field,       55
Yea, declared by the stars in their courses, the tides in their flow,
And the clash of the world’s wide battle as it sways to and fro,
  Flashing forth as a flame
  The unnameable Name,
  The ineffable Word,       60
  I am the Lord.
 
V

I am the End to which the whole world strives:
  Therefore are ye girdled with a wild desire and shod
With sorrow; for among you all no soul
Shall ever cease or sleep or reach its goal       65
Of union and communion with the Whole,
  Or rest content with less than being God.
Still, as unending asymptotes, your lives
  In all their myriad wandering ways
Approach Me with the progress of the golden days;       70
  Approach Me; for my love contrives
That ye should have the glory of this
  For ever; yea, that life should blend
  With life and only vanish away
  From day to wider wealthier day,       75
Like still increasing spheres of light that melt and merge in wider spheres
Even as the infinite years of the past melt in the infinite future years.
  Each new delight of sense,
  Each hope, each love, each fear,
  Widens, relumes and recreates each sphere,       80
From a new ring and nimbus of pre-eminence.
I am the Sphere without circumference:
I only and for ever comprehend
All others that within me meet and blend.
  Death is but the blinding kiss       85
  Of two finite infinities;
  Two finite infinite orbs
  The splendour of the greater of which absorbs
The less, though both like Love have no beginning and no end.
 
VI

Therefore is Love’s own breath
       90
Like Knowledge, a continual death;
And all his laughter and kisses and tears,
  And woven wiles of peace and strife,
That ever widen thus your temporal spheres,
Are making of the memory of your former years       95
  A very death in life.
 
VII

  I am that I am;
  Ye are evil and good;
With colour and glory and story and song ye are fed as with food:
  The cold and the heat,      100
  The bitter and the sweet,
The calm and the tempest fulfil my Word;
Yet will ye complain of my two-edged sword
That has fashioned the finite and mortal and given you the sweetness of strife,
  The blackness and whiteness,      105
  The darkness and brightness,
Which sever your souls from the formless and void and hold you fast-fettered to life?
 
VIII

  Behold now, is Life not good?
  Yea, is it not also much more than the food,
More than the raiment, more than the breath?      110
  Yet Strife is its name!
Say, which will ye cast out first from the furnace, the fuel or the flame?
Would ye all be as I am; and know neither evil nor good; neither life; neither death;
Or mix with the void and the formless till all were as one and the same?
 
IX

I am that I am; the Container of all things: kneel, lift up your hands
      115
To the high Consummation of good and of evil which none understands;
The divine Paradox, the ineffable Word, in whose light the poor souls that ye trod
Underfoot as too vile for their fellows are at terrible union with God!
  Am I not over both evil and good,
  The righteous man and the shedder of blood?      120
    Shall I save or slay?
  I am neither the night nor the day,
    Saith the Lord.
Judge not, oh ye that are round my footstool, judge not, ere the hour be born
  That shall laugh you also to scorn.      125
 
X

Ah, yet I say unto all that have sinned,
  East and West and South and North
  The wings of my measureless love go forth
To cover you all: they are free as the wings of the wind.
 
XI

But one thing is needful; and ye shall be true
      130
  To yourselves and the goal and the God that ye seek;
Yea, the day and the night shall requite it to you
  If ye love one another, if your love be not weak.
 
XII

Since I sent out my worlds in their battle-array
    To die and to live,      135
    To give and to receive,
Not peace, not peace, I have brought among you but a sword,
  To divide the night from the day,
    Saith the Lord;
Yet all that is broken shall be mended,      140
  And all that is lost shall be found,
  I will bind up every wound,
When that which is begun shall be ended.

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