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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Eclipse of Faith

By Theodore Dwight Woolsey (1801–1889)

THE SHAPES that frowned before the eyes

Of the early world have fled,

And all the life of earth and skies,

Of streams and seas, is dead.

Forgotten is the Titan’s fame,

The dread Chimæra now

Is but a mild innocuous flame

Upon a mountain’s brow,

Around whose warmth its strawberry red

The arbutus hangs and goatherds tread.

And now has Typho spent his rage,

The Sirens now no more

Entice the song-struck mariner

To give his voyage o’er.

The sailor past Messina hies,

And scorns the den where Scylla lies.

Leda’s twin sons no more are seen

In battle’s hottest press,

Nor shine the wind-tost waves between

To seamen in distress.

The muse is but the poet’s soul,

That looked towards Helicon,

And for its living thought divine

Raised up a mountain throne.

But ah! is nought save fable slain

In this new realm of thought?

Or has the shaft Primeval Truth

And Truth’s great Author sought?

Yes, wisdom now is built on sense;

We measure and we weigh,

We break and join, make rare and dense,

And reason God away.

The wise have probed this wondrous world,

And searched the stars, and find

All curious facts and laws revealed,

But no Almighty mind.

From thinking dust we mould the spheres,

And shape earth’s wondrous frame:

If God had slept a million years,

All things would be the same.

O give me back a world of life,

Something to love and trust,

Something to quench my inward strife,

And lift me from the dust.

I cannot live with nature dead,

Mid laws and causes blind;

Powerless on earth, or overhead,

To trace the all-guiding mind;

Then boast that I have found the keys

That time and space unlock,

That snatch from heaven its mysteries,

Its fear from the earthquake shock.

Better the instinct of the brute

That feels its God afar,

Than reason, to his praises mute,

Talking with every star.

Better the thousand deities

That swarmed in Greece of yore,

Than thought that scorns all mysteries

And dares all depths to explore.

Better is childhood’s thoughtless trust

Than manhood’s daring scorn;

The fear that creeps along the dust

Than doubt in hearts forlorn.

And knowledge, if it cost so dear,

If such be reason’s day,

I’ll lose the pearl without a tear,

And grope my star-lit way.

And be the toils of wisdom curst

If such the meed we earn;

If freezing pride and doubt are nurst,

And faith forbid to burn.