The Candle of Vision

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The Candle of Vision

By by AE (George William Russell)


I THINK of earth as the floor of a cathedral where altar and Presence are everywhere. This reverence came to me as a boy listening to the voice of birds one coloured evening in summer, when suddenly birds and trees and grass and tinted air and myself seemed but one mood or companionship, and I felt a certitude that the same spirit was in all. A little breaking of the barriers and being would mingle with being. Whitman writes of the earth that it is rude and incomprehensible at first. "But I swear to you," he cries, "that there are divine things well hidden." Yet they are not so concealed that the lover may not discover them, and to the lover nature reveals herself like a shy maiden who is slowly drawn to one who adores her at a distance, and who is first acknowledged by a lifting of the veil, a long-remembered glance, a glimmering smile, and at last comes speech and the mingling of life with life. So the lover of Earth obtains his reward, and little by little the veil is lifted of an inexhaustible beauty and majesty. It may be he will be tranced in some spiritual communion, or will find his being overflowing into the being of the elements, or become aware that they are breathing their life into his own. Or Earth may become on an instant all faery to him, and earth and air resound with the music of its invisible people. Or the trees and rocks may waver before his eyes and become transparent, revealing what creatures were hidden from him by the curtain, and he will know as the ancients did of dryad and hamadryad, of genii of wood and mountain. Or earth may suddenly blaze about him with supernatural light in some lonely spot amid the hills, and he will find he stands as the prophet in a place that is holy ground, and he may breathe the intoxicating exhalations as did the sibyls of old. Or his love may hurry him away in dream to share in deeper mysteries, and he may see the palace chambers of nature where the wise ones dwell in secret, looking out over the nations, breathing power into this man's heart or that man's brain, on any who appear to their vision to wear the colour of truth. So gradually the earth lover realises the golden world is all about him in imperishable beauty, and he may pass from the vision to the profounder beauty of being, and know an eternal love is within and around him, pressing upon him and sustaining with infinite tenderness his body, his soul and his spirit.

I have obscured the vision of that being by dilating too much on what was curious, but I desired to draw others to this meditation, if by reasoning it were possible to free the intellect from its own fetters, so that the imagination might go forth, as Blake says, "in uncurbed glory." So I stayed the vision which might have been art, or the ecstasy which might have been poetry, and asked of them rather to lead me back to the ancestral fountain from which they issued. I think by this meditation we can renew for ourselves the magic and beauty of Earth, and understand the meaning of things in the sacred books which had grown dim. We have so passed away from vital contact with divine powers that they have become for most names for the veriest abstractions. and those who read do not know that the Mighty Mother is that Earth on which they tread and whose holy substance they call common clay; or that the Paraclete is the strength of our being, the power which binds atom to atom and Earth to Heaven: or that the Christos is the Magician of the Beautiful and that it is not only the Architect of the God-world but is that in us which sees beauty, creates beauty, and it is verily wisdom in us and is our deepest self; or that the Father is the fountain of substance and power and wisdom, and that we could not lift an eyelash but that we have our being in Him. When we turn from books to living nature we begin to understand the ancient wisdom, and it is no longer an abstraction. for the Great Spirit whose home is in the vast becomes for us a moving glamour in the heavens, a dropping tenderness at twilight, a visionary light in the hills, a voice in the heart. the Earth underfoot becomes sacred, and the air we breathe is like wine poured out for us by some heavenly cupbearer.

As we grow intimate with earth we realise what sweet and august things await humanity when it goes back to that forgotten mother. Who would be ambitious, who would wish to fling a name like Caesar's in the air, if he saw what thrones and majesties awaited the heavenly adventurer? Who would hate if he could see beneath the husk of the body the spirit which is obscured and imprisoned there, and how it was brother to his own spirit and all were children of the King? Who would weary of nature or think it a solitude once the veil had been lifted for him, once he had seen that great glory? Would they not long all of them for the coming of that divine hour in the twilights of time, when out of rock, mountain, water, tree, bird, beast or man the seraph spirits of all that live shall emerge realising their kinship, and all together, fierce things made gentle, and timid things made bold, and small made great, shall return to the Father Being and be made one in Its infinitudes.

When we attain this vision nature will melt magically before our eyes, and powers that seem dreadful, things that seemed abhorrent in her will reveal themselves as brothers and allies. Until then she is unmoved by our conflicts and will carry on her ceaseless labours.

No sign is made while empires pass.
The flowers and stars are still His care,
The constellations hid in grass,
The golden miracles in air. p. 175

Life in an instant will be rent
When death is glittering, blind and wild,
The Heavenly Brooding is intent
To that last instant on Its child.

It breathes the glow in brain and heart.
Life is made magical. Until
Body and spirit are apart
The Everlasting works Its will.

In that wild orchid that your feet
In their next falling shall destroy,
Minute and passionate and sweet,
The Mighty Master holds His joy.

Though the crushed jewels droop and fade
The Artist's labours will not cease,
And from the ruins shall be made
Some yet more lovely masterpiece.




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