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

John Henry Newman 1801–90

The Elements


MAN is permitted much

To scan and learn

In Nature’s frame;

Till he well-nigh can tame

Brute mischiefs, and can touch

Invisible things, and turn

All warring ills to purposes of good.

Thus, as a god below,

He can control,

And harmonize, what seems amiss to flow

As sever’d from the whole

And dimly understood.

But o’er the elements

One Hand alone,

One Hand has sway.

What influence day by day

In straiter belt prevents

The impious Ocean, thrown

Alternate o’er the ever-sounding shore?

Or who has eye to trace

How the Plague came?

Forerun the doublings of the Tempest’s race?

Or the Air’s weight and flame

On a set scale explore?

Thus God has will’d

That man, when fully skill’d,

Still gropes in twilight dim;

Encompass’d all his hours

By fearfullest powers

Inflexible to him.

That so he may discern

His feebleness,

And e’en for earth’s success

To Him in wisdom turn,

Who holds for us the keys of either home,

Earth and the world to come.