To think of time:
Time, always without break, indicates itself in parts,
Yet time itself knows no index,
The clock and the hands of the clock only tell the time,
They are not themselves the aggregated years.
Which is greatest—time, which baffles us, or its indexes, made of wood and brass, by a workman at ten dollars a week?
It is merely to stand us a little in help that we combine sets of springs and wheels and arbitrarily divide by hours and quarters, and call this measuring time.
It avails not, time nor place,
One time as good as another time,
Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept time absolutely.
Time is the great physician who cures our ills of mind and body,
That stunning, swimming puzzle envelops the soul itself and God Himself,
It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all,
That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all.
The universe is a vast procession—all is a procession,
A kaleidoscope divine, it moves changing before us,
Movement everywhere, incessant, immense, overwhelming.
This earth we inhabit is whirling about in space,
The misty nebulae are moving, whirling around in great spirals,
Whirling about a central system, fact, principle.
I doubt if there are a dozen men who really sketch that to themselves—
Perceive, embrace, what it means.
The processes of growth, of existence, of decay, whether in worlds, or in the minutest organisms, are but motion,
Illustrious the mystery of motion in all beings, even the tiniest insect.
Every human sense is the result of motion,
Every perception, every thought is but motion of the molecules of the brain,
Translated by that incomprehensible thing we call mind.
Invisibly, inaudibly, after their sorts, all the forces of the universe—the air, every drop of water, every grain of sand—are pulsating, progressing, never stopping, never hasting,
Light is one kind of motion, heat another, electricity another, magnetism another, sound another,
Every molecule of matter in the whole universe is swinging to and fro.
If I have any principle and lesson underlying my writings, peculiarly marking them more than any other, it is that lesson, for man and woman, which nature shows throughout, of continual development—
Evolution, the one thing escaping the other,
Shapes ever projecting other shapes,
Arriving at any one result or degree, only to start on further results and degrees,
The cumulative—growths and generations,
The unfolding of cosmic purposes.
To me, development, continuity, immortality, transformation, are the chiefest life-meanings of nature and humanity, and are the sine qua non of all facts, and each fact.
The great principle underlying all the universe is ceaseless change,
Sloughing, growth, development—even new laws.
The law over all, and law of laws, is the law of successions—
The superior law, in time, gradually supplanting and overwhelming the inferior one.
Long and long has the grass been growing,
Long and long has the rain been falling,
Long has the globe been rolling round,
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on millions of years.
Every condition promulges not only itself, it promulges what grows after and out of itself—
Incalculable masses of composite precious materials, by history’s cycles forwarded—
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.
Do you not know how the buds beneath are folded,
Waiting in gloom protected by frost?
Unseen buds, infinite, germinal, exquisite, in delicate lace, microscopic,
Like babes in wombs, latent, sleeping,
Hidden well, in every square or cubic inch.
Forms, qualities, lives, humanity, language, thoughts,
The ones known, and the ones unknown, the ones on the stars,
Such-like, and as good as such-like, visible here or anywhere, stand provided for in a handful of space, which I extend my arm and half enclose with my hand—
That containing the start of each and all, the virtue, the germs of all,
Countless germs, vast unknown matter and qualities lying inert,
Much more than known matter and qualities,
Waiting the due conjunction, the arousing touch,
Billions of billions, and trillions of trillions of them waiting,
On earth and in the sea—the universe—the stars there in the heavens.
Urge and urge and urge, always the procreant urge of the world,
The slow and steady ages plodding, the unoccupied surface ripening,
The latent life underneath—the effort to start something—
Urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless,
While the followers there in embryo wait behind,
Waiting ever more, forever more behind.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase,
(To be ripe beyond further increase is to prepare to die,)
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life,
Undulating, swiftly merging from womb to birth, from birth to fullness and transmission, quickly transpiring.
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without a corpse,
Not a day passes, not a minute or second without an accouchement.
As to you life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
The very power that would seem most deadly and destructive turns out to be latently conservative of longest, vastest future births and lives.
This then is life,
What has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions, the countless combinations and effects.
All triumphs and glories, complete in themselves, will in their turn be convuls’d,
Lead onward and serve other parturitions and transitions,
Whose ceaseless play of counterpart upon counterpart brings constant restoration and vitality.
Those stars, which seem so calm and steady, are constant convulsions,
The terrible perturbations of the suns, swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use.
Ever the mutable, ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering out of tumult and chaos—
Duly the hinges turning,
Duly the needed discord-parts offsetting, blending,
Changes and transformations every hour, every moment,
Creation’s incessant unrest, exfoliation—
The essences of creation, and the changes, and the growth and formations and decays,
Weaving from us, from sleep, night, death itself, the rhythmus of birth eternal;
There is no stoppage and never can be stoppage.
Age after age, nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world,
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
They may have to wait long, but they will certainly come in use.
The law of the past cannot be eluded,
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,
The law of the living cannot be eluded, it is eternal.
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,
That vast paradox somehow with all its action and restlessness conveying a sense of eternal rest;
The eternal overthrow of things is great,
And the eternal equilibrium of things is great,
And there is another paradox.
NEXT: The Past