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George Willis Cooke, comp. The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology. 1903.

Sub Rosa, Crux

Margaret Fuller (1810–1850)

IN times of old, as we are told,

When men more child-like at the feet

Of Jesus sat, than now,

A chivalry was known more bold

Than ours, and yet of stricter vow,

Of worship more complete.

Knights of the Rosy Cross, they bore

Its weight within the heart, but wore

Without, devotion’s sign in glistening ruby bright;

The gall and vinegar they drank alone,

But to the world at large would only own

The wine of faith, sparkling with rosy light.

They knew the secret of the sacred oil

Which, poured upon the prophet’s head,

Could keep him wise and pure for aye.

Apart from all that might distract or soil,

With this their lamps they fed,

Which burn in their sepulchral shrines unfading night and day.

The pass-word now is lost

To that initiation full and free;

Daily we pay the cost

Of our slow schooling for divine degree.

We know no means to feed an undying lamp;

Our lights go out in every wind or damp.

We wear the cross of ebony and gold,

Upon a dark background a form of light,

A heavenly hope upon a bosom cold,

A starry promise in a frequent night;

The dying lamp must often trim again,

For we are conscious, thoughtful, striving men.

Yet be we faithful to this present trust,

Clasp to a heart resigned the fatal must;

Though deepest dark our efforts should enfold,

Unwearied mine to find the vein of gold;

Forget not oft to lift the hope on high;

The rosy dawn again shall fill the sky.

And by that lovely light, all truth-revealed,

The cherished forms which sad distrust concealed,

Transfigured, yet the same, will round us stand,

The kindred angels of a faithful band;

Ruby and ebon cross both cast aside,

No lamp is needed, for the night has died.

Happy be those who seek that distant day,

With feet that from the appointed way

Could never stray;

Yet happy too be those who more and more,

As gleams the beacon of that only shore,

Strive at the laboring oar.

Be to the best thou knowest ever true,

Is all the creed;

Then, be thy talisman of rosy hue,

Or fenced with thorns that wearing thou must bleed,

Or gentle pledge of Love’s prophetic view,

The faithful steps it will securely lead.

Happy are all who reach that shore,

And bathe in heavenly day,

Happiest are those who high the banner bore,

To marshal others on the way;

Or waited for them, fainting and way-worn,

By burdens overborne.