Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse  »  102. From ‘Paracelsus’

Nicholson & Lee, eds. The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.

Robert Browning (1812–1889)

102. From ‘Paracelsus’


TRUTH is within ourselves; it takes no rise

From outward things, whate’er you may believe.

There is an inmost centre in us all,

Where truth abides in fullness; and around,

Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,

This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.

A baffling and perverting carnal mesh

Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW,

Rather consists in opening out a way

Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,

Than in effecting entry for a light

Supposed to be without.


I knew, I felt, (perception unexpressed,

Uncomprehended by our narrow thought,

But somehow felt and known in every shift

And change in the spirit,—nay, in every pore

Of the body, even,)—what God is, what we are

What life is—how God tastes an infinite joy

In infinite ways—one everlasting bliss,

From whom all being emanates, all power

Proceeds; in whom is life for evermore,

Yet whom existence in its lowest form

Includes; where dwells enjoyment there is he:

With still a flying point of bliss remote,

A happiness in store afar, a sphere

Of distant glory in full view; thus climbs

Pleasure its heights for ever and for ever.

The centre-fire heaves underneath the earth,

And the earth changes like a human face;

The molten ore bursts up among the rocks,

Winds into the stone’s heart, outbranches bright

In hidden mines, spots barren river-beds,

Crumbles into fine sand where sunbeams bask—

God joys therein! The wroth sea’s waves are edged

With foam, white as the bitten lip of hate,

When, in the solitary waste, strange groups

Of young volcanos come up, cyclops-like,

Staring together with their eyes on flame—

God tastes a pleasure in their uncouth pride.

Then all is still; earth is a wintry clod:

But spring-wind, like a dancing psaltress, passes

Over its breast to waken it, rare verdure

Buds tenderly upon rough banks, between

The withered tree-roots and the cracks of frost,

Like a smile striving with a wrinkled face;

The grass grows bright, the boughs are swoln with blooms

Like chrysalids impatient for the air,

The shining dorrs are busy, beetles run

Along the furrows, ants make their ade;

Above, birds fly in merry flocks, the lark

Soars up and up, shivering for very joy;

Afar the ocean sleeps; white fishing-gulls

Flit where the strand is purple with its tribe

Of nested limpets; savage creatures seek

Their loves in wood and plain—and God renews

His ancient rapture. Thus He dwells in all,

From life’s minute beginnings, up at last

To man—the consummation of this scheme

Of being, the completion of this sphere

Of life: whose attributes had here and there

Been scattered o’er the visible world before,

Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant

To be united in some wondrous whole,

Imperfect qualities throughout creation,

Suggesting some one creature yet to make,

Some point where all those scattered rays should meet

Convergent in the faculties of man.