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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Verse Musings on Nature, Faith, and Freedom (1889). I. Faith. V. Life and Thought

John Owen (1836–1896)

UNSOUGHT came Life to me,

And with it brought

A precious, perilous gift—

The gift of Thought.

Life grew, and with its growth

Grew also Thought,

Like twin-born beings, from birth

To rivalry wrought.

First, Life claimed precedence,

In that it sought

To merge in its own being,

The being of Thought.

Said Life, “No useful end

Is gained by Thought,

And all its doubts and quests

Come but to nought.”

But Thought in turn replied,

“Life cannot choose

But live; nor yet can Thought

Its subtler being refuse.

“By direful stress ondriven,

I still must quest,

Though answer full and true

Ne’er bring me rest.

“Thou, Life, mayst easy live,

Deprived of Thought,

Nay, myriads pass through life

To think untaught.

“Yet to man’s life doth Thought,

Though vain its quest,

Lend all the power that makes

It nobly blest.”

Then, sighing, Life replied,

“Too-bounded scope,

Poor foolish thought, gives Life

For thy great hope.

“And space and time, and all

That men call being,

Are objects much too small

For thy far-seeing.”

To which Thought once more said,

“Thus it must be,

That Thought can more than Life,

And further see.

“Wherefore thou seest, Life,

Howe’er distraught,

By her great quest—far higher

Than Life is Thought.”


Then I at last, well-learned

In power of Thought,

And worth of Life—to soothe

Their rivalry sought.

Thus to the twain said I,

“What needs this strife?

Twin mysteries are ye,

Both Thought and Life.”