Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

Uranus 1

Arthur Hugh Clough

WHEN on the primal peaceful blank profound,
Which in its still unknowing silence holds
All knowledge, ever by withholding holds—
When on that void (like footfalls in far rooms),
In faint pulsations from the whitening East
Articulate voices first were felt to stir,
And the great child, in dreaming grown to man,
Losing his dream to piece it up began;
Then Plato in me said,
‘’Tis but the figured ceiling overhead,
With cunning diagrams bestarred, that shine
In all the three dimensions, are endowed
With motion too by skill mechanical,
That thou in height, and depth, and breadth, and power.
Schooled unto pure Mathesis, might proceed
To higher entities, whereof in us
Copies are seen, existent they themselves
In the sole kingdom of the Mind and God.
Mind not the stars, mind thou thy Mind and God.’
By that supremer Word
O’ermastered, deafly heard
Were hauntings dim of old astrologies;
Chaldean mumblings vast, with gossip light
From modern ologistic fancyings mixed,
Of suns and stars, by hypothetic men
Of other frame than ours inhabited,
Of lunar seas and lunar craters huge.
And was there atmosphere, or was there not?
And without oxygen could life subsist?
And was the world originally mist?—
Talk they as talk they list,
I, in that ampler voice,
Unheeding, did rejoice.

1. This thought is taken from a passage on astronomy in Plato’s ‘Republic,’ in which the following sentence occurs, vii. 529, D: ‘We must use the fretwork of the sky as patterns, with a view to the study which aims at these higher realities, just as if we chanced to meet with diagrams cunningly drawn and devised by Dædalus or some other craftsman or painter.’    [back]

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