Grand Is The Leisure Of The Earth

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Grand is the leisure of the earth;
She gives her happy myriads birth,
And after harvest fears not dearth,
But goes to sleep in snow-wreaths dim.
Dread is the leisure up above
The while He sits whose name is Love,
And waits, as Noah did, for the dove,
To wit if she would fly to him.

‘He waits for us, while, houseless things,
We beat about with bruisèd wings
On the dark floods and water-springs,
The ruined world, the desolate sea;
With open windows from the prime
All night, all day, He waits sublime,
Until the fullness of the time
Decreed from His eternity.

‘Where is OUR leisure?-Give us rest.
Where is the quiet we possessed?
We must have had it once-were blest
With peace whose phantoms yet entice.
Sorely the mother of mankind
Longed for the garden left behind;
For we still prove some yearnings blind
Inherited from Paradise.’

‘Hold, heart!’ I cried; ‘for trouble sleeps,
I hear no sound of aught that weeps;
I will not look into thy deeps-
I am afraid, I am afraid!’
‘Afraid!’ she saith; ‘and yet ’tis true
That what man dreads he still should view-
Should do the thing he fears to do,
And storm the ghosts in ambuscade!’

‘What good!’ I sigh. ‘Was reason meant
To straighten branches that are bent,
Or soothe an ancient discontent,
The instinct of a race dethroned?
Ah! doubly should that instinct go,
Must the four rivers cease to flow,
Nor yield those rumours sweet and low
Wherewith man’s life is undertoned.’

‘Yet had I but the past,’ she cries,
‘And it was lost, I would arise
And comfort me some other wise.
But more than loss about me clings.
I am but restless with my race;
The whispers from a heavenly place,
Once dropped among us, seem to chase
Rest with their prophet-visitings.

‘The race is like a child, as yet
Too young for all things to be set
Plainly before him, with no let
Or hindrance meet for his degree;
But ne’ertheless by much too old
Not to perceive that men withhold
More of the story than is told,
And so infer a mystery.

‘If the Celestials daily fly
With messages on missions high,
And float, our nests and turrets nigh,
Conversing on Heaven’s great intents,
What wonder hints of coming things,
Whereto men’s hope and yearning clings,
Should drop like feathers from their wings
And give us vague presentiments.

‘And as the waxing moon can take
The tidal waters in her wake,
And lead them round and round, to break
Obedient to her drawings dim;
So may the movements of His mind,
The first Great Father of mankind,
Affect with answering movements blind,
And draw the souls that breathe by Him.

‘We had a message long ago
That like a river peace should flow,
And Eden bloom again below.
We heard, and we began to wait:
Full soon that message men forgot;
Yet waiting is their destined lot,
And, waiting for they know not what,
They strive with yearnings passionate.’

© Jean Ingelow