This post was inspired by the always-amazing T. Thorn Coyle, whose powerful and empowering book, Evolutionary Witchcraft, is one of those life-changing books I wish had been around years ago when I was a baby pagan (it would have saved me so much time). It’s one of those books that will be enlightening and transformative to you regardless of your particular path(s) or tradition(s), and is of great value to both the wide-eyed newcomer and the experienced adept. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
Today Thorn wrote a wonderful post entitled Lessons from the Lake. The idea of learning from the lake, cultivating stillness, and finding love and the presence of divinity in all things, particularly resonated with me today. I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite poems, which I shared with Thorn in the comments to that post and which I would now like to share with you.
I have actually memorized this poem and use it as part of my daily practice of Passage Meditation (a topic for another post). It was written by one of my poet-heroes, Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), a visionary poet who was also an early activist for gay rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights, animal rights, prison reform, economic reform, and many other progressive topics that made him very much ahead of his time. His life with his partner, George Merrill (Merrill and Carpenter lived openly as a couple for over thirty years, until Carpenter’s death), was the inspiration for E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice. And Carpenter was certainly a pagan mystic himself, as his opinions in Pagan and Christian Creeds and numerous other works clearly show. I believe that Carpenter’s book-length poem Towards Democracy (a conscious imitation/homage to his hero Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), is a woefully overlooked and marginalized masterpiece of late 19th-/early 20th-century English poetry. My pocket-sized copy from 1921 (with a battered green cover and gold lettering), has a special place on my household shrine.
So without further ado, here is the poem:
The Lake of Beauty
by Edward Carpenter
Let your mind be quiet, realising the beauty of the world, and the immense, the boundless treasures that it holds in store.
All that you have within you, all that your heart desires, all that your Nature so specially fits you for – that or the counterpart of it waits embedded in the great Whole, for you. It will surely come to you.
Yet equally surely not one moment before its appointed time will it come. All your crying and fever and reaching out of hands will make no difference.
Therefore do not begin that game at all.
Do not recklessly spill the waters of your mind in this direction and in that, lest you become like a spring lost and dissipated in the desert.
But draw them together into a little compass, and hold them still, so still;
And let them become clear, so clear – so limpid, so mirror-like;
At last the mountains and the sky shall glass themselves in peaceful beauty,
And the antelope shall descend to drink, and to gaze at his reflected image, and the lion to quench his thirst,
And Love himself shall come and bend over, and catch his own likeness in you.