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Poem by Arthur Hugh Clough
O, RICHLY soiled and richly sunned, Exuberant, fervid, and fecund! Is this the fixed condition On which may Northern pilgrim come, To imbibe thine ether-air, and sum Thy store of old tradition? Must we be chill, if clean, and stand Foot-deep in dirt on classic land? So is it: in all ages so, And in all places man can know, From homely roots unseen below The stem in forest, field, and bower, Derives the emanative power That crowns it with the ethereal flower, From mixtures foetid, foul, and sour Draws juices that those petals fill. Ah Nature, if indeed thy will Thou own’st it, it shall not be ill! And truly here, in this quick clime, Where, scarcely bound by space or time, The elements in half a day Toss off with exquisitest play What our cold seasons toil and grieve, And never quite at last achieve; Where processes, with pain, and fear, Disgust, and horror wrought, appear The quick mutations of a dance, Wherein retiring but to advance, Life, in brief interpause of death, One moment sitting taking breath, Forth comes again as glad as e’er, In some new figure full as fair, Where what has scarcely ceased to be, Instinct with newer birth we see— What dies, already, look you, lives; In such a clime, who thinks, forgives; Who sees, will understand; who knows, In calm of knowledge find repose, And thoughtful as of glory gone, So too of more to come anon, Of permanent existence sure, Brief intermediate breaks endure. O Nature, if indeed thy will, Thou ownest it, it is not ill! And e’en as oft on heathy hill, On moorland black, and ferny fells, Beside thy brooks and in thy dells, Was welcomed erst the kindly stain Of thy true earth, e’en so again With resignation fair, and meet The dirt and refuse of thy street, My philosophic foot shall greet, So leave but perfect to my eye Thy columns, set against thy sky!
Arthur Hugh Clough
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