“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.”
I honestly can’t understand why Carpenter’s beautiful poems aren’t more widely known. I’ve already posted one of my favorites, “The Lake of Beauty,” (which I use for my daily Passage Meditation) but here are two more gems:
All Night Long
by Edward Carpenter
All night long in love, in the darkness, passing through your lips, my love—
Breathing the same breath, being folded in the same sleep, losing sense of Me and Thee,
Into empyreal regions, beloved of the gods, united, we ascend together.
Then in the morning on the high hill-side in the sun, looking down upon the spires of the larches and Scotch firs,
Mortal, we tread again the earthy floor.
O Earth, the floor of heaven—
O Sun, shining aloft in the sky so pure—
O children of the sun, ye flowers and streams, and little mortals walking the earth for a time—
And we too gazing for a time, for a time, for a time, into each other’s eyes.
The Central Calm
by Edward Carpenter
Drawing back for a moment from Time, and its superficial claims and conclusions,
Realising for a moment the artistic nature of the utterance of the Universe:
That all is for expression, and that for this end commencement and finale, first evolved and latest evolved, are equally important;
That Progress is a word which may be applied to any world-movement or individual career in the same sense as it may be applied to the performance of a musical work,
Which progresses to its final chord, yet the conclusion of the whole is not in the final chord, but in that which runs beneath and inspires the entire web—in that which from first to last the whole complex succession of chords and phrases indicates:
Realising—thus for a moment withdrawn—that there is no need to hurry, no need to dash against the bars;
But that Time itself rushing on with amazing swiftness in its vast and endless round, with suns and systems, ages and geologic epochs, races and tribes of beings, mineral, vegetable, animal, and ethereal, circle beyond circle, infallibly fulfills and gives utterance to the glorious whole:
Like one in the calm that is the centre of a cyclone—guarded by the very tornado around—
Undisturbed, yet having access equally to every side,
I drink of the deep well of rest and joy,
And sit with all the gods in Paradise.