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

From ‘Except the Lord Build the House’

By Edward Carpenter (1844–1929)

From ‘Towards Democracy’

EXCEPT the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.

In vain millions of yards of calico and miles of lace-work turned out per annum;

In vain a people well clad in machine-made cloth and hosiery;

In vain a flourishing foreign trade and loose cash enough for a small war;

In vain universal congratulations and lectures on Political Economy;

In vain the steady whirr of wheels all over the land, and men and women serving stunted and pale before them, as natural as possible;

Except Love build the house, they labor in vain who build it.

O rich and powerful of the earth!

Behold, your riches are all in vain—you are poorer than the poorest of these children!

Against one such whom you have wronged your armies, your police, and all the laws that you can frame shall not prevail.

Your palaces of splendor are reared from the beginning upon a foundation of lies, and the graves that you have dug for others shall be for your own burial.

The word is gone forth!

The wealth, the power that you have coveted crumble from your grasp as in a dream.

You have thought to drive armies of starving slaves to win idleness and luxury for you,

But it shall be as a dream: they shall surely elude you.

Behold, your armies shall vanish away—even while the word is on your lips, while your hand of command is lifted,

Your armies shall vanish away like smoke, they shall surely elude you.

In Death shall they vanish away,

(O fragrance wafted through the still night-air!)

In Death shall they breathe through your bonds and become as the impalpable winds.

Like deserters at night stealing away in thousands out of a camp,

They shall pass a ghostly army to the other side:

Broken and worn and sick—a ghostly army shall they pass and vanish;

And ye shall dream that they are gone.

But they are not gone.

For with the morning—out of the ground—

Out of their mother Earth—star-thick—and ye cannot bind them more than ye can bind the stars—

Out of the heart of their mother, and out of the hearts of the asters and star-shaped chrysanthemums,


Through the hollow air and down the rustling flowing rivers,

Over the meadows with the feet of the wind whitening the grass,

From the mystic chambers of their innumerable homes—out of the mystic doors—

Out of the doors of Death and Birth—in thousands—out of the doors of preparation,

Full-equipped hastening, from all sides swiftly gathering,

A radiant army into your great towns pouring,

Down your long streets striding, they shall return.

Spirits of awful knowledge,

(Clad anew with fleshly hands and feet, through sunlit eyes still glancing,)

And of deep-gathered silent age-long experience;

Spirits of the suffering brotherhood—spirits of awful authority—

Before whom materials shrivel and the accumulations of Custom are blown on the wind like chaff—

A self-appointed army they shall return:

Out of whom the word of transformation—

Whispered on many a half-awakened winter day to the silent earth alone—

Shall be spoken aloud as with a trumpet over the world—and the world shall be changed.