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

By A Heretic and Other Poems (1891). I. Creeds

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824–1908)

AH! these old creeds

Who can believe them to-day?

Yet were brave deeds

Inspired by them once, too; and they

Made men of heroic mould

In the great fighting ages of old.

Is it the wounds

Which science has given? or the sap

On critical grounds,

Which has brought about their mishap?

Nay, these touched not a vital spot,

Though they brag of the wreck they have wrought.

But the spirit has risen

From the hard, narrow letter which kept

Men’s thoughts in a prison,

Where they struggled or languished or slept;

And now we can soar high above

All the creeds but the Credo of Love.

They are things of the past,

Survivals, and now out of date;

The men were not cast

In our moulds, who endured such a weight,

So linked and compact: let them go,

They who wore them had no room to grow.

All too complete,

They were subtly and skilfully wrought

With logic neat;

But they are not in touch with our thought;

And they will not allow they have found

Any spot where they have not sure ground.

They are ever so far

From the days we are living in now,

From our work and our war,

And the thoughts that are aching our brow;

And yet though they be but part true,

Vain to patch up the old, or make new.

Creed-making now

In these latter ages of time

Would yield stuff, I trow

Thin and loose as a small poet’s rhyme—

Tags and thrums, hints and guesses, no more

With a deep, settled doubt at the core.

What not to believe,

That now is the stage we are at;

And how shall we weave

Any faith to live on out of that?

There must go to the making of creeds

Sure hearts, girded up for high deeds.

But ours is an age

Of unmaking, taking things down:

For the warfare we wage

We must swarm from the fortified town,

And spread out to find air and room

Beyond the old walls and their gloom.

Yet we have faith

In the Right and the True and the Good,

And in Him whose last breath

Was the prayer of a pitiful mood,

Which smites the meek spirit with awe,

And with Love, the true life of all Law.