Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Ernest Myers b. 1844


ON through the Libyan sand

Rolls ever, mile on mile,

League on long league, cleaving the rainless land,

Fed by no friendly wave, the immemorial Nile.

Down through the cloudless air,

Undimm’d, from heaven’s sheer height,

Bend their inscrutable gaze, austere and bare,

In long-proceeding pomp, the stars of Libyan night.

Beneath the stars, beside the unpausing flood,

Earth trembles at the wandering lion’s roar;

Trembles again, when in blind thirst of blood

Sweep the wild tribes along the startled shore.

They sweep and surge and struggle, and are gone:

The mournful desert silence reigns again,

The immemorial River rolleth on,

The order’d stars gaze blank upon the plain.

O awful Presence of the lonely Nile,

O awful Presence of the starry sky,

Lo, in this little while

Unto the mind’s trueseeing inward eye

There hath arisen there

Another haunting Presence as sublime,

As great, as sternly fair;

Yea, rather fairer far

Than stream, or sky, or star,

To live while star shall burn or river roll,

Unmarr’d by marring Time,

The crown of Being, a heroic soul.

Beyond the weltering tides of worldly change

He saw the invisible things,

The eternal Forms of Beauty and of Right;

Wherewith well pleas’d his spirit wont to range,

Rapt with divine delight,

Richer than empires, royaler than kings.

Lover of children, lord of fiery fight,

Saviour of empires, servant of the poor,

Not in the sordid scales of earth, unsure,

Deprav’d, adulterate,

He measur’d small and great,

But by some righteous balance wrought in heaven,

To his pure hand by Powers empyreal given;

Therewith, by men unmov’d, as God he judged aright.

As on the broad sweet-water’d river tost

Falls some poor grain of salt,

And melts to naught, nor leaves embittering trace;

As in the o’er-arching vault

With unrepell’d assault

A cloudy climbing vapor, lightly lost,

Vanisheth utterly in the starry space;

So from our thought, when his enthron’d estate

We inly contemplate,

All wrangling phantoms fade, and leave us face to face.

Dwell in us, sacred spirit, as in thee

Dwelt the eternal Love, the eternal Life,

Nor dwelt in only thee; not thee alone

We honor reverently,

But in thee all who in some succoring strife,

By day or dark, world-witness’d or unknown,

Crush’d by the crowd, or in late harvest hail’d,

Warring thy war have triumph’d, or have fail’d.

Nay, but not only there

Broods thy great Presence, o’er the Libyan plain.

It haunts a kindlier clime, a dearer air,

The liberal air of England, thy lov’d home.

Thou through her sunlit clouds and flying rain

Breathe, and all winds that sweep her island shore—

Rough fields of riven foam,

Where in stern watch her guardian breakers roar.

Ay, thron’d with all her mighty memories,

Wherefrom her nobler sons their nurture draw,

With all of good or great

For aye incorporate

That rears her race to faith and generous shame,

To high-aspiring awe,

To hate implacable of thick thronging lies,

To scorn of gold and gauds and clamorous fame;

With all we guard most dear and most divine,

All records rank’d with thine,

Here be thy home, brave soul, thy undecaying shrine.