Irish Nationalist, Mystical Writer, Editor, Critic, Poet and Painter
George William Russell
Irish Nationalist, Mystical Writer, Editor, Critic, Poet and Painter
Sirs, I address this warning to you, the aristocracy of industry in this city, because, like all aristocracies, you tend to grow blind in long authority, and to be unaware that you and your class and its every action are being considered and judged day by day by those who have power to shake or overturn the whole social order, and whose restlessness in poverty today is making our industrial civilization stir like a quaking bog. You do not seem to realise that your assumption that you are answerable to yourselves alone for your actions in the industries you control is one that becomes less and less tolerable in a world so crowded with necessitous life.
There are heaps of things I would like to do, but there is no time to do them. The most gorgeous ideas float before the imagination, but time, money, and alas! inspiration to complete them do not arrive, and for any work to be really valuable we must have time to brood and dream a little over it, or else it is bloodless and does not draw forth the God light in those who read. I believe myself, that there is a great deal too much hasty writing in our magazines and pamphlets. No matter how kindly and well-disposed we are when we write we cannot get rid of the essential conditions under which really good literature is produced, love for the art of expression in itself; a feeling for the music of sentences, so that they become mantrams, and the thought sings its way into the soul. To get this, one has to spend what seems a disproportionate time in dreaming over and making the art and workmanship as perfect as possible.
We must pass like smoke or live within the spirit's fire; for we can no more than smoke unto the flame return if our thought has changed to dream, our will unto desire, as smoke we vanish though the fire may burn.
I thought, beloved, to have brought to you a gift of quietness and ease and peace, cooling your brow as with the mystic dew dropping from twilight trees. Homeward I go not yet; the darkness grows; not mine the voice to still with peace divine: from the first fount the stream of quiet flows through other hearts than mine. Yet of my night I give to you the stars, and of my sorrow here the sweetest gains, and out of hell, beyond its iron bars, my scorn of all its pains.
Now the quietude of earth nestles deep my heart within; friendships new and strange have birth since I left the city's din.
Something you see in me I was not: another heart in you I guess: a stranger's lips — but thine I kiss not, erring in all my tenderness.
There was autocracy in political life, and it was superseded by democracy. So surely will democratic power wrest from you the control of industry. The fate of you, the aristocracy of industry, will be as the fate of the aristocracy of land if you do not now show that you have some humanity still among you. Humanity abhors, above all things, a vacuum in itself, and your class will be cut off from humanity as the surgeon cuts the cancer and alien growth from the body. Be warned ere it is too
Well, when all is said and done best within my narrow way, may some angel of the sun muse memorial o'er my clay: 'Here was beauty all betrayed from the freedom of her state; from her human uses stayed on an idle rhyme to wait.
If the Gods would only inspire me a little more vigorously I would write no end, but as it is I have to sweat over my work, such as it is, and often groan that I never have a chance to do it properly.
Now when the spirit in us wakes and broods, filled with home yearnings, drowsily it flings from its deep heart high dreams and mystic moods, mixed with the memory of the loved earth things; clothing the vast with a familiar face; reaching its right hand forth to greet the starry race.
Still as the holy of holies breathes the vast within its crystal depths the stars grow dim; fire on the altar of the hills at last burns on the shadowy rim. Moments that holds all moments; white upon the verge it trembles; then like mists of flowers break from the fairy fountain of the dawn the hues of many hours.
There were many burning hours on the heart-sweet tide, and we passed away from ourselves, forgetting all the immortal moods that faded, the god who died, hastening away to the King on a distant call.
Image of beauty, when I gaze on thee, trembling I waken to a mystery, how through one door we go to life or death by spirit kindled or the sensual breath.
O'er the fields of space together following her flying traces, in a radiant tumult thronging, suns and stars and myriad races mount the spirit spires of beauty, reaching onward to the day when the Shepherd of the Ages draws his misty hordes away through the glimmering deeps to silence, and within the awful fold life and joy and love forever vanish as a tale is told, lost within the mother's being. So the vision flamed and fled, and before the glory fallen every other dream lay dead.
The ancient deep and fade therein, enraptured, bright and blind.
There were ruby dews were shed when the heart was riven, and passionate pleading and prayers to the dead we had wronged; and we passed away unremembering and unforgiven, hastening away to the King for the peace we longed.
In ancient shadows and twilights where childhood had strayed, the world’s great sorrows were born and its heroes were made.
Of the Earth, of the Mother, my heart with her heart in accord: as I lie mid the cool green tresses that mantle her breast I begin with the grass once again to be bound to the Lord.
The blue dusk ran between the streets; my love was winged within my mind; it left to-day and yesterday and thrice a thousand years behind. To-day was past and dead for me for from to-day my feet had run through thrice a thousand years to walk the ways of ancient Babylon.
They knew me from the dawn of time: if Hermes beats his rainbow wings, if Angus shakes his locks of light, or golden-haired Apollo sings, it matters not the name, the land; my joy in all the gods abides: even in the cricket in the grass some dimness of me smiles and hides. for joy of me the day star glows, and in delight and wild desire the peacock twilight rays aloft its plumes and blooms of shadowy fire, where in the vastness too I burn through summer nights and ages long, and with the fiery footed Watchers shake in myriad dance and song.
In day from some titanic past it seems as if a thread divine of memory runs; born ere the Mighty One began his dreams, or yet were stars and suns.
Oh real as in dream all this; and then a hand on mine is laid: the wave of phantom time withdraws; and that young Babylonian maid, one drop of beauty left behind from all the flowing of that tide, is looking with the self-same eyes, and here in Ireland by my side. Oh, light our life in Babylon, but Babylon has taken wings, while we are in the calm and proud procession of eternal things.
The conception of yourselves as altogether virtuous and wronged is, I assure you, not at all the one which onlookers hold of you. No doubt, you have rights on your side. No doubt, some of you suffered without just cause. But nothing which has been done to you cries aloud to Heaven for condemnation as your own actions.
This mood hath known all beauty for it sees o'erwhelmed majesties in these pale forms, and kingly crowns of gold on brows no longer bold, and through the shadowy terrors of their hell the love for which they fell, and how desire which cast them in the deep called God too from his sleep.
In the fire of love we live, or pass by many ways, by unnumbered ways of dream to death.