David Park Barnitz


And since i understood not what so strong
     Driveth all these at such exstatic pace,
     I too went down and joined in the throng;
And many sitting in a lowly place
     I saw, where sense and vision darkness clogs,
     With one flat-breasted wife with munched face
And bestial litter as of rats or hogs;
     These are all they that eat and multiply
     In the same manner with low apes and dogs;
Like these they live and like these they shall die.
     —Pass thou from these, said then to me that voice,
     And heed not thou the stinking of that sty.
Then saw I them that did with wine rejoice,
     Crowning their heads with roses of the earth;
     I too sat down and joined in that noise,
But ask'd me soon Why do all these have mirth?
     From these I past, weary of myrrh and wine.
     Others apart whose spirits had more dearth
Sat solitary as who would fain divine,
     Of seeing and of hearing ill content;
     With these I sat, half drunken with the vine,
And sick of visions that aye came and went;
     But all the knowledge that their striving found
     Was but one vision more than wine had sent;
All these also shall moulder in the ground.
     From these I past as from dead flesh and bones.
     Then came I where the kings of earth sat crown'd
Neath purple canopies on golden thrones;
     These offer'd me part in that changeless state,
     Until my soul wearied of brass and bronze.
Others whose sweating nothing could abate
     Kingdoms and cities build and overthrow,
     Till my soul wonder'd at the striving great
Of all the puppets in that puppet-show:
     —Doth the string move them with such urgency,
     That all their limbs such strange grimaces show?
—These are all they that do, one made reply;
     In all their actions never could I find
     What they were doing these things for nor why.
From these I past as from the deaf and blind,
     And ever as I went the solemn brawl
     Of all these mad and idiot howl'd behind.
I came to those that ceased not to call
     The world unto them, shouting o'er and o'er;
     My heart knew not why these so loudly bawl;
And some stood round with faces that implore,
     Asking for peace; and ever those that gave
     Did but like these delude themselves the more;
But rottenness shall stop all these that rave.
     Last, some there were that did with vanity
     Toil ever with unwearied hands to save
And to eternize all things great and high;
     With these I stay'd, till my heart questioned:
     —What are the things thou doest here and why?
Whereat all these became as persons dead.
     Then I arose from among these the last,
     And followed then where'er my footsteps led;
And among them that reigned then I past,
     And among them that ever fain would know,
     And among them whose lot with wine was cast;
I past the prophets and the puppet-show,
     And among them that joy'd in marble and in song,
     And all that Seven tir'd of long ago.
And is this all the meaning of that throng,
     This all, O heart, that wast of seeing fain,
     But like a circle that still seemeth long
Because it goeth round and round again?
     Not in all these doth any reason hide
     No more than in the words of the insane,
There is no ground for sorrow; nor in pride
     For pride; nor in them that in gladness sate;
     Wherefore with none of these shall I abide.
The sought is vanity; the seeking great
     Vanity; the not-seeking vanity;
     For none of these change I my solemn state.


Then since no one could answer unto me
     The question, and since no one could me tell
     The wherefore of this endless Vanity
Of all the spirits that on earth did dwell,
     I said—I go unto the Absolute;
     He will perchance release me from this hell.
Him that made noisy what before was mute
     I found upon a heap of filthy dung
     Low-sitting in the fashion of the brute.
In strange grimaces still his face he wrung,
     Up to the chin within that filth immerst,
     Which still his busy hands about him flung.
—Do thou those clothes wherein he is inhearst
     Take off, said I to one, and do not shirk.
     He did, while still that being howl'd and curst.
For there so thick and muddy was the murk,
     And he still bore of clothes so thick a weight,
     I knew not well what thing therein did lurk.
Three coverings then that one removed straight—
     Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotence,
     From off the thing that in the ordure sate.
Then did his truth show clear to every sense,
     A filthy idiot so. foul and low,
     That decency the perfect tale prevents.
And I—O thou whose nakedness doth show
     Like one not in the womb to fulness brought,
     Why are all things that are; if thou dost know?
Then he replied from out the ordure hot:
     —Brahma, great Brahma, Everlasting, I!
     And I—Not such reply my question sought.
Answer thou me! And he still made reply:
     Brahma, great Brahma! repetition vain.
     I asked again: and—Brahma! he did cry.
Then one thereby to me—Why art thou fain
     Knowledge to have from It? It knows not, It;
     Why seek for truth among the low insane?
Then he that did within the ordure sit
     Out of the filth that lay about his feet
     Such things as children make with little wit
Made, and then broke, and did the act repeat.
     —I have made all the worlds, he gibbered;
     And I his labour with these words did greet.
—Why dost thou these things? why, O why? I said.
     No word vouchsaf'd the mouth of him that^tank,
     But giggling sounds and idiot uttered.
Then seated in that place of ordure rank,
     With his two lips he made a cackling sound,
     And back within the friendly ordure sank.
Then I with a great sad and awful voice
     Cried out—O thou that rottest in this sty,
     O thou whose soul in ordure doth rejoice,
What art thou doing these things for and why?
     Then one to me—His bliss is not to know
     The infiniteness of his own Vanity;
Therefore the soul of him that stinketh so,
     Because his sense is blind and deaf and mad
     Forever, knoweth not eternal woe.
Lo from the first his soul no reason had;
     He thinketh he himself is everything,
     And nothing is but him! He is not sad.
Ignorance, ignorance, shrouds him like a pall;
     Therefore thus low upon the fetid floor
     He sits, and knoweth naught outside his stall.
And I—He maketh naught outside his store.
     Why doth he this? and in this fetid tomb
     Sitteth he here in madness evermore?
How long shall iron, awful, gnashing doom
     Leave him thus naked old and idiot
     Blind deaf and stinking, in the loathed gloom?
How long shall This within the ordure squat?
     How long shall This cease not to beck and nod?
     How long shall This cease not to rot and rot?
And he—This rottenness that seemeth God
     More woe than this nor any other mode
     Shall know not, till It ceaseth in the sod.
And as a gnat, a viper, or a toad,
     Because its nature is not infinite,
     It too shall perish in the worm's abode;
Till then It suppurateth in the night.


Then from the world I turn'd my steps afar;
     I came there where the holy Trinity
     And all the blessed saints in glory are,
And did the beatific vision see,
     And how those happy are that once did mourn;
     But my heart said All this is naught to me;
Nor knew I why all these should be reborn.
     Where moon-fac'd houris wanton arms do fling
     Round Mahmud's blessed, I past by in scorn,
For my heart dream'd a deeper revelling.
     Then came I to that banquet more divine
     That Jayadeva and that Jami sing;
And the fair goblet fill'd full of the wine
     Brought the cup-bearer clad with wantonness;
     And there with the beloved and the vine
My heart grew weary of that blessedness.
     From life I past, finding no joy therein.
     The vision and the vine and drunkenness
Still like a circle ever closing in.
     Then I departed to the final peace,
     Sick of what is and shall be and hath been,
Of Brahma, as the drop sinks in the seas:
     I past out from the bonds of thee-and-me,
     Lost in that Infinite whose being is
Glory in all things and reality;
     But therein I that was not I, alas
     In that deliverance from me-and-thee
Where all illusion fadeth like to grass,
     Found naught that equall'd my undimm'd desire;
     —If that reality then real was,
What is that real more than trodden mire?
     Then from all being did my spirit pass,
     Sick of all being whether low or higher.
Out of that circle unto nothingness
     I came, unto Nirvana, the far goal
     Of many a holy saint, where visions cease;
But nothingness did not my heart console.
     Ah not in nothingness is any peace,
     Nor in peace any peace, nor in the whole,
Nor in the vine nor in the vision, nor
     In being nor non-being, nor in all
     That man hath dream'd of and hath anguisht for.
Nay not in joy nor the vine jovial,
     Nor in the perfume of the lov'd one's breath,
     Nay nor in anything anywhere at all;
Nor in illusion; nor what sundereth
     Illusion; in the sundering of that chain
     There is no joy; and not alas in death
Find I that thing whereof my soul is fain.
     All these things also are all vanity
     No less than sun and stars that wax and wane
Forever in the everlasting sky.

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