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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Brief Is Pain

By Edward Carpenter (1844–1929)

(“Kurz ist der Schmerz, und ewig ist die Freude.”)

From ‘Towards Democracy’

SLOWLY, out of all life unfolded, the supreme joy;

Over all storms, above the clouds, beyond Night and the shadow of the Earth,

The Sun in the blue æther changeless shining.

Grief passes, sorrow endures for a moment;

To a certain stage belonging it dogs the footsteps of the individual;

Then fading and passing it leaves him free, a new creature, transfigured to more than mortal.

The myriad spindles of the grass reflecting the light, the long and level meadows waving to the breeze,

The faint haze of summer, blue in deep shadows of the foliage,

The toilers toiling in the fields, the bathers to the water descending or standing on the banks in the sunlight,

The secret that lies wrapt in the summer noon and the slow evolution of races,

The which what voice can utter, what words avail to frame it?

Not pleasure alone is good, but pain also; not joy alone but sorrow;

Freed must the psyche be from the pupa, and pain is there to free it.

Throes and struggles and clenchings of teeth—but pain is there to free it.

Lo! the prison walls must fall—even though the prisoner tremble.

Long the strain, sometimes seeming past endurance—then the dead shell gives way, and a new landscape discloses.

Curtain behind curtain, wall behind wall, life behind life;

Dying here, to be born there, passing and passing and passing,

At last a new creature behold, transfigured to more than mortal!

For brief after all is pain, but joy, ah! joy is eternal!

And thin the veil that divides, the subtle film of illusion—

The prison-wall so slight, at a touch it parts and crumbles,

And opens at length on the sunlit world and the winds of heaven.