This is the poem that made me look up John Hall Wheelock’s work (though I had only seen the section after the Break at that point):

Shall not a man sing as the night comes on?
He would be braver than that bird
Which shrieks for terror and is gone
Into the gathering dark, and he has heard
Often, at evening’s hush,
Upon some towering sunset bough
A belated thrush
Lift up his heart against the menacing night,
Till silence covered all. Oh, now
Before the coming of a greater night
How bitterly sweet and dear
All things have grown! How shall we bear the brunt,
The fury and joy of every sound and sight,
Now almost cruelly fierce with all delight:
The clouds of dawn that blunt
The spearhead of the sun; the clouds that stand,
Raging with light, around his burial;
The rain-pocked pool
At the wood’s edge; a bat’s skittering flight
Over the sunset-colored land;
Or, heard toward morning, the cock pheasant’s call!
Oh, ever sight and sound
Has meaning now! Now, also, love has laid
Upon us her old chains of tenderness
So that to think of the beloved one,
Love is so great, is to be half afraid –
It is like looking at the sun,
That blinds the eye with truth.
Yet longing remains unstilled,
Age will look into the face of youth
With longing, over a gulf not to be crossed.
Oh, joy that is almost pain, pain that is joy,
Unimaginable to the younger man or boy –
Nothing is quite fulfilled,
Nothing is lost;
But all is multiplied till the heart almost
Aches with its burden: there and here
Become as one, the present and the past;
The dead who were content to lie
Far from us, have consented to draw near –
We are thronged with memories,
Move amid two societies,
And learn at last
The dead are the only ones who never die.

Great night, hold back
A little longer yet your mountainous black
Waters of darkness from this shore,
This island garden, this paradisal spot,
The haunt of love and pain,
Which we must leave, whether we would or not,
And where we shall not come again.
More time — oh, but a little more,
Till stretched to the limits of being, the taut heart break
Bursting the bonds of breath,
Shattering the wall
Between us and our world, and we awake
Out of the dream of self into the truth of all,
The price for which is death.

I find that it resonates with me, this precious world and the dream of self, the truth of all, the price of death, the wanting just a little longer …  He captures both the joy and wonder of the life we live, and a deep sense of faith in what must follow.  And both seem honest, found at cost, and not put on.  We are in the haunt of love and pain, where we shall not come again.  There are ways in which it resonates with raging against the dying of the light.  But there is acceptance too.  Shall not a man sing as night comes on?  There is promise and acceptance.  I am deeply moved.

This poem is included in This Blessed Earth, New and SelectedPoems, 1927-1973, by John Hall Whitlock, published by Charles Scribners’s Sons.  It is available on Amazon.com.

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