One deep purpose has underlain the plan of my poems—and that has been the religious purpose.
In the higher structure of a human self, or of community, the moral, the religious, the spiritual, is strictly analogous to the subtle vitalization and antiseptic play call’d health in the physiologic structure.
There is just no real and permanent grandeur, nor character nor life worthy the name, without religion,
Nor land nor man or woman without religion,
sole worthiest elevator of man or state.
Each is not for its own sake,
I say the
whole earth and all the stars in the sky are for religion’s sake.

Religion, the noblest religion, is not a complete edifice in itself,
It is the array of coping, the last crown and finish, the top of towers and pinnacles, raised at last, on many edifices, many foundations and substructures;
In it I for myself clearly see the first, the last, the deepest depths and highest heights of art, of literature, and of the purposes of life.

There can be no sane and complete personality, nor any grand and electric nationality, without the element of religion imbuing all the other elements—chiefest, most indispensable, most exhilarating, to which the others are to be adjusted, inside of all human character, and education, and affairs—like heat in chemistry, invisible itself, but the life of all visible life.

What are you doing young man?
Are you so earnest, so given up to literature, science, art, amours?
Your ambition or business whatever it may be?
It is well—against such I say not a word, I am their poet also,
But behold! such swiftly subside, burnt up for religion’s sake,
For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the essential life of the earth,
Any more than such are to religion.

The thought that wakes in silent hours—perhaps the deepest, most eternal thought latent in the human soul—
This is the thought of God, merged in the thoughts of moral right and the immortality of identity.
Great, great is this over-arching thought—aye, greater than all else,
Most neglected in life of all humanity’s attributes, easily cover’d with crust, deluded and abused, rejected,
Yet the only certain source of what all are seeking, but few or none find.

As for me, I approach the sublimest and most spiritual facts as, even in their littlest beginnings, impenetrable mysteries,
And yet with audacious hand to be seized upon and wrestled with.

But beware! beware!
Know, once for all, they are not true as truths—only as indications or promising spiritual hypotheses,
Every one was the needed representative of its truth—or of something needed as much as truth—
The real truth is no doubt infinitely beyond all these little broken and jangled hints.

These mysterious and ever-elusive subjects are useful as suggestive, as soaring up, beyond the demonstrable, the practical,
They are precious beyond account as elevating and clarifying, as fine spiritual exercises,
Leaving the divine secrets just as inexplicable and unreachable as before—maybe more so.

NEXT: The Old ReligionS