The Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water
What death hangs heavy on the brow of Earth,
What dust lines forehead, dulls the light of eyes,
What ashes crown the head, leach joy from mirth,
What clay brings truth to sunny summer’s lies?
The darkness of the journey down, the brown
Of dark stone’s denseness, heavy granite’s weight:
From brown to black, infernal, airless, drowned
In landmass bowels and continents of hate.
And Earth receives Earth’s corpse, long-promised due,
Scatters the bones, dissolves strong hope of hands.
Where shall the body rise, where strength renew?
The turf springs green, the mount goes flat,
The dust goes down to dust, land back to land,
And hollows of bright eyes one time intact.
A cold wind caught the tattered shred of smoke,
The breath of life at last drawn out, so late,
Forever free from rags of earth that choke:
The breeze of it, the free air feel of fate.
I call it fate or faith or unasked hope,
And see the last faint glimpse with last faint sight
Of spinning mountain peaks, of landlocked slopes,
And laugh, no longer gasped: no labored fight
For breath. A tradewind blows, exchanges view
For sound beyond: I part the currents now,
Now rise with morning, pass the morning mew,
And greet the emptiness of air in space
With clear-voiced cry made perfect now,
And silent sing a psalm of thanks for grace.
That I perceive the fire at all surprises me:
Bodiless thought should feel no blaze of flame;
Sightless my mind in lucid music free
Should break from accident and touch of blame.
Above, below, about remembered sphere
The rose-flame blossoms as a blessed pain;
Notes of a score for neither eye nor ear
Mingle in light of color felt, not seen.
Cleanness of heat, transparent-gold-white heat,
Tries memory to prophecy of light,
Longed-for journey to the universal seat
Of Justice, Mercy. All lose all in fire,
And all forget in awful lake of flame,
And enter into oceans of desire
And the lap of waves, the lash of spray, the break
Of breakers, rolling and roar, Omnipotent Voice,
Above, below, about the seaborne strake,
And taste of salt, sweet, new-made sense of choice;
Mother of all and Father, fertile fane,
Old nurse of quickened seed, of nascent Earth,
Young bond not bound, about the bright-faced plain,
As singers say — an endingless, wave-woven girth.
Gestation long, the final birth was hard:
Lands and dominions gathered from the flood
Without a stain, no various region marred;
A thousand years, a life-time for the free
From ancient Ocean’s multitudinous brood:
Light broke, day dawned, and there was no more sea.
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Williams knew how bored, self-centered, and self-indulgent the rich can be, and how desperately confused, vulnerable, and self-lacerating the poor often are.
My very breath seems evidence of You.
My pulse throbs with a Spirit not…
For all we love to know
He gives us signs