I.

For many seasons I have sat and pondered

the omens of this wonder-perilous time,

and most of all that image all have seen:

that globe, that cloud-veiled jewel of blue and green

upon the black and lifeless infinite,

caught in our far-sent instrumental eye.

This is that earth our ancestors called Great

and Mother, upon which they poured their offerings

of wine, the blood of sacrificial victims,

imploring sustenance of her large bounty,

into whose lap with song and prayer they sowed

the seed of harvests and the lifeless bodies

of those they mourned or hated; in whose depths

their fearful hope conjectured dim dominions,

the retreat of spirits banished from the light,

whose distant regions were the vacant canvas

for wild conjectures, now by fact effaced

the Earth, which yielded us at last the metals,

the fuels, to thrust ourselves beyond its grip

to where it now appears to us, so small,

as if it fit a thumb and finger's compass.

We gaze on this and know it is a mirror

that shows our power and our alienness;

we read in this, as in a face, the fear

of all the devastation we can do

we, who have not created yet one grassblade

of all that give the earthlight its green shimmer!

and at the same time here we are, caught up,

as ever, in the illimitable web

woven by life, sustaining us and all,

and if we tear that from the earth, we perish.

 

We know, too, that this sight, these meditations,

come to impart not first, but final warning;

yet, like a blinded tragic hero dreamed

by some uneasy poet among the Greeks

that race whose thought, waking from nature's sleep,

began the calculations which have led

with an inevitable and quickening pace

to these our present straits pursue our course.

Our madness is methodical and armed:

it borrows for its all-destructive purpose

the scientist's brain, the manufacturer's greed,

the statesman's guile, the hates of creeds and nations;

our better reason, conscious of its ties

to all that lives, the partner of compassion,

whose inmost deep gleams with an intuition

of an eternal Being that desires

the life of our small world, and not its death,

sits feeble and disarmed in warring hearts,

confused with much that militates against it,

so that its scattered enterprises seem

like the last twitchings of a dying body,

and it prepares itself to be a nothing,

or if the spirit survives, to be a ghost

wandering the ruins of a lifeless planet.

It knows: not all the heavens man has dreamed

could compensate it for this world of matter

in which it hoped to be incorporate.

 

So much this eye has seen, this heart has heard,

with every eye and heart that wakes and fears

and scans the mind's field for some word or action,

groping with partial knowledge, partial light.

The greater mind that sees through all at once,

that sees the pattern from above, discerns

the path that leads out of the death-locked maze,

is not yet with us, and may never be;

and yet there is this impulse, this command

to try and think as if one were that mind,

thrust out from all particular entanglings

and viewing human life as it were whole.

Now, while the hand still grips the pen, the mind

has strength to sort the tangled skeins of thought,

I will attempt it: render my account,

though flawed and partial only, of the world,

all that I know of nature's laws, the laws

that shaped the human heart such that it seems

to war against the earth's and its own life;

and then what sources in it, or beyond,

still flow with wisdom and the encouragement

to harbor, even now, a hope of turning,

of some discovery or revelation

to free it from itself, and give it peace

a wakeful peace. I seem to see from far

how it might be that, warned by a self-knowledge

exact as knowledge of the atom is

and nourished by a final recognition

of what is ours, and yet not wholly ours

seen not by outward gaze, but through our being

we could at last distinguish right from wrong

and, even while accepting death, choose life.

This we would call the Consciousness of Earth:

an outward knowledge, bent upon that object

of which we are a part, articulate;

an inward knowledge, flowing from our oneness

with all that is, and with that deeper Inward

by which alone Creation is sustained:

these two in One, a constant interaction

in an awareness not to be divided,

a common mind through which Creation thinks

thoughts self-deception shall not mar again,

and which may rule, as the brain rules the limbs,

the diverse forces of its myriad will.

 

And you, who turn these pages: do not wonder

that to the present urgency I speak

in measures molded by a quieter time,

that I compel my thoughts to keep this pace

which seems to check and trammel their unfolding.

Know, reader, what the elder poets knew

and what the distant disk of Earth now tells us:

that all things have their limit and their term

and in that term and limit is their form,

their beauty, and the laws which give them life,

shaping the energy which otherwise

would lose itself in boundless dissipation.

It is by this that they are what they are,

it is by this that they are part of all.

Who would not know the end can never know

the whole; but, knowing it, one's thoughts cohere,

memory and anticipation speak

through every present line, and form the ear

to catch, the understanding to retain,

the eye to recognize the thing, when met,

of which the word had spoken.

                                                         Thus the laws

of ancient times were handed down in verse

before we learned to trust the hand too much,

and the brain instrumental to the hand.

Bear, then, with me and with this simple measure,

the step of a pedestrian on earth's ways.

So without haste, trusting our strength as far

as it may go, and the divining thread

of our own consciousness, we now set forth.