Edwin Markham, one of my very favorite poets, was born on this day in 1852. I discovered him many years ago while reading through several thick volumes of poetry. His words spoke to me and I’ve committed some of his poetry to heart. Below are some of my favorites.
When my mom died, I discovered the boxed anthology set pictured down below on her shelves and I was thrilled that she also knew Edwin Markham. Now they are on my shelf. I have been thinking of her and of him today.
Victory in Defeat
Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.
When the great oak is straining in the wind,
The boughs drink in new beauty, and the trunk
Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture.
To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.
When in the beginning of the years,
God mixed in man the raptures and the tears
And scattered through his brain the starry stuff,
He said, “Behold! Yet this is not enough,
For I must test his spirit to make sure,
That he can dare the vision and endure.
“I will withdraw my face,
Veil me in shadow for a certain space,
And leave behind only a broken clue,
A crevice where the glory shimmers thru,
Some whisper from the sky,
Some footprints in the road to track me by.
“I will leave man to the make the fateful guess,
Will leave him torn between the no and yes,
Leave him unresting till he rests in me,
Drawn upward by the choice that makes him free,
Leave him in tragic loneliness to choose,
With all in life to win or all to lose.”
We all are blind until we see
That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making if
It does not make the man.
Why build these cities glorious
If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the world, unless
The builder also grows.
For all your days prepare
And meet them ever alike;
When you are the anvil, bear –
When you are the hammer, strike.
Anchored to the Infinite
The builder who first bridged Niagara’s gorge,
Before he swung his cable, shore to shore,
Sent out across the gulf his venturing kite
Bearing a slender cord for unseen hands
To grasp upon the further cliff and draw
A greater cord, and then a greater yet;
Till at the last across the chasm swung
The cable then the mighty bridge in air!
So we may send our little timid thought
Across the void, out to God’s reaching hands—
Send out our love and faith to thread the deep—
Thought after thought until the little cord
Has greatened to a chain no chance can break,
And we are anchored to the Infinite!