Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
I. The Divine Element—(God, Christ, the Holy Spirit)
A Passage in the Life of Saint Augustine
Anonymous
 
LONG pored Saint Austin o’er the sacred page,
  And doubt and darkness overspread his mind;
On God’s mysterious being thought the Sage,
  The Triple Person in one Godhead joined.
  The more he thought, the harder did he find        5
To solve the various doubts which fast arose;
  And as a ship, caught by imperious wind,
Tosses where chance its shattered body throws,
So tossed his troubled soul, and nowhere found repose.
 
Heated and feverish, then he closed his tome,        10
  And went to wander by the ocean-side,
Where the cool breeze at evening loved to come,
  Murmuring responsive to the murmuring tide;
  And as Augustine o’er its margent wide
Strayed, deeply pondering the puzzling theme,        15
  A little child before him he espied:
In earnest labor did the urchin seem,
Working with heart intent close by the sounding stream.
 
He looked, and saw the child a hole had scooped,
  Shallow and narrow in the shining sand,        20
O’er which at work the laboring infant stooped,
  Still pouring water in with busy hand.
  The saint addressed the child in accents bland:
“Fair boy,” quoth he, “I pray what toil is thine?
  Let me its end and purpose understand.”        25
The boy replied: “An easy task is mine,
To sweep into this hole all the wide ocean’s brine.”
 
“O foolish boy!” the saint exclaimed, “to hope
  That the broad ocean in that hole should lie!”
“O foolish saint!” exclaimed the boy; “thy scope        30
  Is still more hopeless than the toil I ply,
  Who think’st to comprehend God’s nature high
In the small compass of thine human wit!
  Sooner, Augustine, sooner far, shall I
Confine the ocean in this tiny pit,        35
Than finite minds conceive God’s nature infinite!”
 
 
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