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V But wherefore be harsh on a single case? After how many modes, this Christmas Eve, Does the self-same weary thing take place? The same endeavour to make you believe, And with much the same effect, no more: Each method abundantly convincing, As I say, to those convinced before, But scarce to be swallowed without wincing By the not-as-yet-convinced. For me, I have my own church equally: And in this church my faith sprang first! (I said, as I reached the rising ground, And the wind began again, with a burst Of rain in my face, and a glad rebound From the heart beneath, as if, God speeding me, I entered his church-door, nature leading me) --In youth I look to these very skies, And probing their immensities, I found God there, his visible power; Yet felt in my heart, amid all its sense Of the power, an equal evidence That his love, there too, was the nobler dower. For the loving worm within its clod, Were diviner than a loveless god Amid his worlds, I will dare to say. You know what I mean: God's all, man's nought: But also, God, whose pleasure brought Man into being, stands away As it were a handbreadth off, to give Room for the newly-made to live, And look at him from a place apart, And use his gifts of brain and heart, Given, indeed, but to keep for ever. Who speaks of man, then, must not sever Man's very elements from man, Saying, "But all is God's"--whose plan Was to create man and then leave him Able, his own word saith, to grieve him But able to glorify him too, As a mere machine could never do, That prayed or praised, all unaware Of its fitness for aught but praise and prayer, Made perfect as a thing of course. Man, therefore, stands on his own stock Of love and power as a pin-point rock: And, looking to God who ordained divorce Of the rock from his boundless continent, Sees, in his power made evident, Only excess by a million-fold O'er the power God gave man in the mould. For, note: man's hand, first formed to carry A few pounds' weight, when taught to marry Its strength with an engine's, lifts a mountain, --Advancing in power by one degree; And why count steps through eternity? But love is the ever-springing fountain: Man may enlarge or narrow his bed For the water's play, but the water-head-- How can he multiply or reduce it? As easy create it, as cause it to cease; He may profit by it, or abuse it, But 'tis not a thing to bear increase As power does: be love less or more In the heart of man, he keeps it shut Or opes it wide, as he pleases, but Love's sum remains what it was before. So, gazing up, in my youth, at love As seen through power, ever above All modes which make it manifest, My soul brought all to a single test-- That he, the Eternal First and Last, Who, in his power, had so surpassed All man conceives of what is might,-- Whose wisdom, too, showed infinite, --Would prove as infinitely good; Would never, (my soul understood,) With power to work all love desires, Bestow e'en less than man requires; That he who endlessly was teaching, Above my spirit's utmost reaching, What love can do in the leaf or stone, (So that to master this alone, This done in the stone or leaf for me, I must go on learning endlessly) Would never need that I, in turn, Should point him out defect unheeded, And show that God had yet to learn What the meanest human creature needed, --Not life, to wit, for a few short years, Tracking his way through doubts and fears, While the stupid earth on which I stay Suffers no change, but passive adds Its myriad years to myriads, Though I, he gave it to, decay, Seeing death come and choose about me, And my dearest ones depart without me. No: love which, on earth, amid all the shows of it, Has ever been seen the sole good of life in it, The love, ever growing there, spite of the strife in it. Shall arise, made perfect, from death's repose of it, And I shall behold thee, face to face, O God, and in thy light retrace How in all I loved here, still wast thou! Whom pressing to, then, as I fain would now, I shall find as able to satiate The love, thy gift, as my spirit's wonder Thou art able to quicken and sublimate, With this sky of thine, that I now walk under, And glory in thee for, as I gaze Thus, thus! Oh, let men keep their ways Of seeking thee in a narrow shrine-- Be this my way! And this is mine!
"Christmas Eve" by Robert Browning