I invariably experience a variety of sensations when I “survey the heavens” on a calm, clear night, about the end of the month of May. I can then inhale the sweets of the woodbine and other flowers, whose fragrance is drawn out by the gentle dews of evening. The nightingale breaks the silence by his sweet and varied notes; and the full moon “walking in brightness,” and rendered still more beautiful by the lustre of so many shining stars, which appear in the wide–extended firmament, completes the loveliness of this nocturnal scene. Then I begin to reflect upon my own insignificance, and to ask myself what I am, that the great Author of the universe should be mindful of me. His mercy, however, then presents itself to me, as well as His majesty, and the former affects me more than the latter. I listen to the bird which appears to be pouring forth his little tribute of gratitude and praise, and my heart prompts me to do the same. The very perfume of the flowers seems to be an incense ascending up to heaven; and with these feelings I am able to enjoy the calm tranquillity of the evening.
~ Edward Jesse
Painting (In the Rain) by Franz Marc (8th February, 1880 – 4th March, 1916)
A Little Prayer by Robert Service (16th January, 1874 – 11th September, 1958)
Let us be thankful, Lord, for little things–
The song of birds, the rapture of the rose;
Cloud-dappled skies, the laugh of limpid springs,
Drowned sunbeams and the perfume April blows;
Bronze wheat a–shimmer, purple shade of trees–
Let us be thankful, Lord of Life, for these!
Let us be praiseful, Sire, for simple sights;–
The blue smoke curling from a fire of peat;
Keen stars a–frolicking on frosty nights,
Prismatic pigeons strutting in a street;
Daisies dew–diamonded in smiling sward–
For simple sights let us be praiseful, Lord!
Let us be grateful, God, for health serene,
The hope to do a kindly deed each day;
The faith of fellowship, a conscience clean,
The will to worship and the gift to pray;
For all of worth in us, of You a part,
Let us be grateful, God, with humble heart.
Universal Prayer by Alexander Pope (21st May 1688 – 30th May 1744)
Father of all! In every age,
In ev’ry clime ador’d,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood,
Who all my sense confin’d
To know but this, that Thou art good,
And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And, binding Nature fast in Fate,
Left free the human Will.
What Conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do;
This teach me more than Hell to shun,
That more than Heav’n pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives;
T’ enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth’s contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round.
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And teach damnation round the land
On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, O teach my heart
To find that better way.
Save me alike from foolish Pride
Or impious Discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
Or aught that goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To right the fault I see:
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.
Mean tho’ I am, not wholly so,
Since quicken’d by thy breath;
O lead me whereso’er I go,
Thro’ this day’s life or death!
This day be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun
Though know’st if best bestow’d or not,
And let Thy will be done.
To Thee, whose temple is of Space,
Whose altar earth, sea, skies,
One chorus let all Beings raise!
All Nature’s incense rise!
Spirit of Nature!
The pure diffusion of thy essence throbs
Alike in every human heart.
Thou aye erectest there
Thy throne of power unappealable;
Thou art the judge beneath whose nod
Man’s brief and frail authority
Is powerless as the wind
That passeth idly by.
Thine the tribunal which surpasseth
The show of human justice,
As God surpasseth man.
Painting by Władysław Czachórski
I love to rove amidst the starry height,
To leave the little scenes of earth behind,
And let Imagination wing her flight
On eagle pinions swifter than the wind.
I love the planets in their course to trace;
To mark the comets speeding to the sun,
Then launch into immeasurable space,
Where, lost to human sight, remote they run.
I love to view the moon, when high she rides
Amidst the heav’ns, in borrowed lustre bright;
To fathom how she rules the subject tides,
And how she borrows from the sun her light.
O! these are wonders of th’ Almighty hand,
Whose wisdom first the circling orbits planned.
~ T Rodd
Painting by Vincent van Gogh
The Open Door by Alfred Noyes (16th September, 1880 – 28th June, 1958)
O Mystery of life,
That, after all our strife,
Just as, at last, we see
The road to victory,
The tired heart breaks.
Just as the long years give
Knowledge of how to live,
Life’s end draws near;
As if, that gift being ours,
God needed our new powers
In worlds elsewhere.
There, if the soul whose wings
Were won in suffering, springs
To life anew,
Justice would have some room
For hope beyond the tomb,
And mercy, too.
And since, without this dream
No light, no faintest gleam
Answers our ‘why’;
But earth and all its race
Must pass and leave no trace
On that blind sky;
Shall reason close that door
On all we struggled for,
Seal the soul’s doom;
Make of this universe
One wild answering curse,
One lampless tomb?
Mine be the dream, the creed
That leaves for God, indeed,
For God, and man,
One open door whereby
To prove His world no lie
And crown His plan.
There yet remains but one concluding tale,
And then this chronicle of mine is ended—
Fulfilled, the duty God ordained to me,
A sinner. Not without purpose did the Lord
Put me to witness much for many years
And educate me in the love of books.
One day some indefatigable monk
Will find my conscientious, unsigned work;
Like me, he will light up his ikon–lamp
And, shaking from the scroll the age–old dust,
He will transcribe these tales in all their truth.
Painting: Allegory of Human Life by Alessandro Allori
The Ideal And The Actual Life by Friedrich von Schiller (10th November, 1759 – 9th May, 1805)
Forever fair, forever calm and bright,
Life flies on plumage, zephyr–light,
For those who on the Olympian hill rejoice
Moons wane, and races wither to the tomb,
And ’mid the universal ruin, bloom
The rosy days of Gods. With man, the choice,
Timid and anxious, hesitates between
The sense’s pleasure and the soul’s content;
While on celestial brows, aloft and sheen,
The beams of both are blent.
Seekest thou on earth the life of gods to share,
Safe in the realm of death? Beware
To pluck the fruits that glitter to thine eye;
Content thyself with gazing on their glow
Short are the joys possession can bestow,
And in possession sweet desire will die.
’Twas not the ninefold chain of waves that bound
Thy daughter, Ceres, to the Stygian river
She plucked the fruit of the unholy ground,
And so–was hell’s forever!
The weavers of the web–the fates–but sway
The matter and the things of clay;
Safe from change that time to matter gives,
Nature’s blest playmate, free at will to stray
With gods a god, amidst the fields of day,
The form, the archetype, serenely lives.
Would’st thou soar heavenward on its joyous wing?
Cast from thee, earth, the bitter and the real,
High from this cramped and dungeon being, spring
Into the realm of the ideal!
Here, bathed, perfection, in thy purest ray,
Free from the clogs and taints of clay,
Hovers divine the archetypal man!
Dim as those phantom ghosts of life that gleam
And wander voiceless by the Stygian stream,
Fair as it stands in fields Elysian,
Ere down to flesh the immortal doth descend:
If doubtful ever in the actual life
Each contest here a victory crowns the end
Of every nobler strife.
Not from the strife itself to set thee free,
But more to nerve doth victory
Wave her rich garland from the ideal clime.
Whate’er thy wish, the earth has no repose
Life still must drag thee onward as it flows,
Whirling thee down the dancing surge of time.
But when the courage sinks beneath the dull
Sense of its narrow limits–on the soul,
Bright from the hill–tops of the beautiful,
Bursts the attained goal!
If worth thy while the glory and the strife
Which fire the lists of actual life
The ardent rush to fortune or to fame,
In the hot field where strength and valor are,
And rolls the whirling thunder of the car,
And the world, breathless, eyes the glorious game
Then dare and strive the prize can but belong
To him whose valor o’er his tribe prevails;
In life the victory only crowns the strong
He who is feeble fails.
But life, whose source, by crags around it piled,
Chafed while confined, foams fierce and wild,
Glides soft and smooth when once its streams expand,
When its waves, glassing in their silver play,
Aurora blent with Hesper’s milder ray,
Gain the still beautiful that shadow-land!
Here, contest grows but interchange of love,
All curb is but the bondage of the grace;
Gone is each foe, peace folds her wings above
Her native dwelling-place.
When, through dead stone to breathe a soul of light,
With the dull matter to unite
The kindling genius, some great sculptor glows;
Behold him straining, every nerve intent
Behold how, o’er the subject element,
The stately thought its march laborious goes!
For never, save to toil untiring, spoke
The unwilling truth from her mysterious well
The statue only to the chisel’s stroke
Wakes from its marble cell.
But onward to the sphere of beauty. Go
Onward, O child of art! and, lo!
Out of the matter which thy pains control
The statue springs! not as with labor wrung
From the hard block, but as from nothing sprung
Airy and light the offspring of the soul!
The pangs, the cares, the weary toils it cost
Leave not a trace when once the work is done
The Artist’s human frailty merged and lost
In art’s great victory won!
If human sin confronts the rigid law
Of perfect truth and virtue, awe
Seizes and saddens thee to see how far
Beyond thy reach, perfection; if we test
By the ideal of the good, the best,
How mean our efforts and our actions are!
This space between the ideal of man’s soul
And man’s achievement, who hath ever past?
An ocean spreads between us and that goal,
Where anchor ne’er was cast!
But fly the boundary of the senses live
The ideal life free thought can give;
And, lo, the gulf shall vanish, and the chill
Of the soul’s impotent despair be gone!
And with divinity thou sharest the throne,
Let but divinity become thy will!
Scorn not the law–permit its iron band
The sense (it cannot chain the soul) to thrall.
Let man no more the will of Jove withstand,
And Jove the bolt lets fall!
If, in the woes of actual human life
If thou could’st see the serpent strife
Which the Greek art has made divine in stone
Could’st see the writhing limbs, the livid cheek,
Note every pang, and hearken every shriek,
Of some despairing lost Laocoon,
The human nature would thyself subdue
To share the human woe before thine eye
Thy cheek would pale, and all thy soul be true
To man’s great sympathy.
But in the ideal realm, aloof and far,
Where the calm art’s pure dwellers are,
Lo, the Laocoon writhes, but does not groan.
Here, no sharp grief the high emotion knows
Here, suffering’s self is made divine, and shows
The brave resolve of the firm soul alone:
Here, lovely as the rainbow on the dew
Of the spent thunder–cloud, to art is given,
Gleaming through grief’s dark veil, the peaceful blue
Of the sweet moral heaven.
So, in the glorious parable, behold
How, bowed to mortal bonds, of old
Life’s dreary path divine Alcides trod:
The hydra and the lion were his prey,
And to restore the friend he loved today,
He went undaunted to the black browed god;
And all the torments and the labors sore
Wroth Juno sent the meek majestic one,
With patient spirit and unquailing, bore,
Until the course was run
Until the god cast down his garb of clay,
And rent in hallowing flame away
The mortal part from the divine to soar
To the empyreal air! Behold him spring
Blithe in the pride of the unwonted wing,
And the dull matter that confined before
Sinks downward, downward, downward as a dream!
Olympian hymns receive the escaping soul,
And smiling Hebe, from the ambrosial stream,
Fills for a god the bowl!
Composition by Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)