Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 344. Musa Extatica
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
344. Musa Extatica
By Clarence A. Walworth
  
THE ALTAR tiles are under her feet,
Buff and blue;
The tiles lie smooth beneath her feet,
But touch not her sandal shoe.
Her eyes entranced might seem to gaze        5
Where arches concentrate and meet
In a maze;
But the arches are not in view.
Where does the vision lie?
What fixes the maiden’s eye?       10
What makes her smile?
Is it far, or is it near?
What makes her garments float so clear
Above the bed of tile?
They are not lifted by the air.       15
Why hold her hands behind her head,
Dipped in that foam of golden hair,
As if she heard some distant tread,
And stood prepared to call?
Why does her bosom rise and fall?       20
Its even swell of deep emotion
Is like the roll on a placid ocean
Of billows from afar.
Who can tell what these billows are?
Is it joy coming, or desire outgoing?       25
Does she command, or is she wooing?
Why does she smile? why bend her brow?
Why nod? why beckon now,
Whiles censuring, and whiles approving,
Is she conveying her desire       30
To some viewless choir,
Or a crowd of spirits moving?
Wait! wait! Now she is still.
If thou hast a poet’s ear
For sacred song, come near!       35
The beating of her heart will tell.
 
‘Lo! me on holy ground,
With burning bushes all around.
Oh! whither shall I turn?
I burn! I burn!       40
Electric currents come and go.
They thread my spirit through and through;
And a crowding tide of thought
Holds my spirit overwrought,
And urges love to fond despair.       45
Oh! give me air!
I die! I die!
Blow on me from the upper sky,
Or joy that has no breath,
Unsung must end in death.       50
Oh! give me air divine!
Brace me with the breath of wine!
Give me such milk as flows from the breast
Of the all-hallowing Eucharist,
That I may troll       55
Sweet carols to the Oversoul.
Either fill me
With blood of song, or kill me.
 
‘Oh! I am drunk, but not with drink;
Wild, but not all beyond command.       60
How could imagination think
To gauge, by law of plumb and line,
A vision reared by heavenly wand,
A beauty all entrancing and divine,
Which makes thought reel as if with wine?       65
It steals my reason, yet I own it;
It steals my thought to crown it.
My heart in sweet delirium
Lies safe at home.
It gives me more than it can take,       70
Though I leave all for its dear sake;
A mighty vision haunts me,
Enchants and disenchants me,
Heals my wounds, yet makes me bleed.
Not for the world would I dispel it.       75
Oh! could I, as I see it, tell it,
I were a bard indeed.
 
‘Oh! I am mad, but not with folly,
Sad am I without melancholy,
Glad, but with sober merriment;       80
Fond am I, without detriment
To reason. Bonded to higher will
That may not be denied,
My own I seek to kill,
All fearless of the suicide.       85
Oh! I am calm,
I know where I am.
Yea, when most overwrought
I still am mistress of my thought;
Though oft to others I may seem       90
A vessel driving to the coast
On the foam of a dream,
And utterly lost,
There’s method in my madness,
There’s measure in my gladness;       95
And into rhythmic rule I bring
True anthems to my Lord and King.
Of love, all ruling love, I sing.
By love inspired, by love oppressed,
Within my breast      100
Electric forces gathering
Leap into buds;
Thoughts crystallize into thick geodes
The grasses wave their myriad flags;
Hills helmeted with lofty crags      105
Rein up like warriors;
The hemlocks bending low,
Like water carriers,
Beneath their yokes of snow,
Keep measure with their feet      110
To the time I beat;
Pines, crowding to look o’er
The common score,
Bend eagerly down till their bonnets meet;
Clouds march in groups;      115
Waves march in columns over the sea;
Stars gallop in troops;
Nights and days keep time;
The fuguing seasons chime
With nature and with me;—      120
All praise the Lord together.
To the last cliffs of space I shout,
My choristers to gather.
Sing out! sing out!
Keep tune, keep time,      125
To the pitch and motion of my rhyme!
Faster! faster! faster!
Look at me!
One! two! three!
’Tis the measure of the mighty Master.      130
So beats revolving life in Trinity.
’Tis the secret of infinity—
Who keeps true time shall time outlast;
Who loses, stubbornly slow,
From heaven shall be outcast,      135
And its music shall never know.
Sing all! sing out!
Prolong the chant with joyous shout.
Faith praises with untiring tongue.
The hearts that weary die unblest,      140
Harps must not be unstrung,
Love may repose but never rest.’

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