Body and Soul by Metta Victoria Fuller Victor

A living soul came into the world—
⁠Whence came it? Who can tell?
Or where that soul went forth again,
⁠When it bade the world farewell?

A body it had, this spirit new,
⁠And the body was given a name,
And chance and change and circumstance
⁠About its being came.
Whether the name would suit the soul
⁠The givers never knew—
Names are alike, but never souls:
⁠So body and spirit grew,
Till time enlarged their narrow sphere
⁠Into the realms of life,
Into this strange and double world,
⁠Whose elements are at strife.

‘Twere easy to tell the daily paths
⁠Walked by the body’s feet,
To mark where the sharpest stones were laid,
⁠Or where the grass grew sweet;
To tell if it hungered, or what its dress,
⁠Ragged, or plain, or rare ;
What was its forehead—what its voice,
⁠Or the hue of its eyes and hair.

But these are all in the common dust;
⁠And the spirit—where is it?
Will any say if the hue of the eyes,
⁠Or the dress, for that was fit?
Will any one say what daily paths
⁠That spirit went or came—
Whether it rested in beds of flowers,
⁠Or shrunk upon beds of flame?
Can any one tell, upon stormy nights,
⁠When the body was safely at home,
Where, amid darkness, terror, and gloom.
⁠Its friend was wont to roam?
Where, upon hills beneath the blue skies.
⁠It rested soft and still,
Flying straight out of its half-closed eyes.
⁠That friend went wandering at will?

High as the bliss of the highest heaven.
⁠Low as the lowest hell.
With hope and fear it winged its way
⁠On journeys none may tell.

It lay on the rose’s fragrant breast,
⁠It bathed in the ocean deep,
It sailed in a ship of sunset cloud.
⁠And it heard the rain-cloud weep.
It laughed with naiads in murmurous caves.
⁠It was struck by the lightning’s flash.
It drank from the moonlit lily-cup.
⁠It heard the iceberg’s crash.

It haunted places of old renown.
⁠It basked in thickets of flowers;
It fled on the wings of the stormy wind.
⁠It dreamed through the star-lit hours,
Alas! a soul’s strange history
⁠Never was written or known,
Though the name and age of its earthly part
⁠Be graven upon the stone!

It hated, and overcame its hate—
⁠It loved to youth’s excess—
It was mad with anguish, wild with joy.
⁠It had visions to grieve and to bless;
It drank of the honey-dew of dreams,
⁠For it was a poet true;
Secrets of nature and secrets of mind,
⁠Mysteriously it knew.

Should mortals question its history.
⁠They would ask if it had gold—
If it bathed and floated in deeps of wealth—
⁠If it traded, and bought, and sold.
They would prize its worth by the outward dress
⁠By which its body was known:
As if a soul must eat and sleep.
⁠And live on money alone!

It had no need to purchase lands.
⁠For it owned the whole broad earth;
‘Twas of royal rank, for all the past
⁠Was its by right of birth.
All beauty in the world below
⁠Was its by right of love.
And it had a great inheritance
⁠In the nameless realms above.

It has gone! the soul so little known—
⁠Its body has lived and died—
Gone from the world so vexing, small:
⁠But the Universe is wide!

From: Coggeshall, William T. (ed.), Poets and Poetry of the West. The Poets and Poetry of the West: with Biographical and Critical Notes, 1860, Follett, Foster and Company: Columbus, pp. 520-521.

Date: 1860

By: Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1831-1885)

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