What is truth?—(The disciple)

What is truth?—(The disciple)

(The Saviour of the World, Vol V Book IV Poem XLV)

Nay, what is truth? the cynic lightly cried;
But not to him the Incarnate Truth replied:

Who sees the light must have an eye;

Who music hears must bring an ear;

The seeing may things fair espy;

To the hearing, harmonies appear:

Who truth discerneth, he too hath a test,
A talisman of virtue in his breast.

Truth lieth not in this or that true thing
Careful observed;—plumage on insect’s wing:

Nor in exact report, of how—

This curious thing one saw in the street;

That behaviour he was seen to allow,—

Conduct in such a man unmeet!

These instances be true; but truth is more
Than a man hears with his ears, or any lore

Careful collects he with observant eye
From Nature’s book, right-full of mystery;

Or gathers from the written page

Where men record with duteous pains

Things which transpire from age to age,

Reckoning their losses up and gains:

We praise men as they garner what is true;
But the Truth—find they not thus, nor thus pursue.

For Truth is as the sun and lights up all
The shows of earth,—its treasures great and small;

And men, distract, see trifling things

Show radiant in the dazzling light

The sun on any object flings

Presented to the gazer’s sight:

Lo, here the Truth! the man enraptured cries,—
On worthless gewgaw fixed, his gloating eyes.

But, who would see the Truth, the Sun must see,
Nor be contented by his light to trace

Glories of colour here and there;—

“Sufficient,” saith he, “for my sight;

I am too weak, I cannot bear

The effulgence of immediate light.”

So he pieces shining bits that light to make
Which shows his faltering steps the way to take!

But, see, the Truth is undivided, whole;
Presented instant to the timorous soul;

Foolish, she hangs back in dismay,

Would fain content her with a part,

Nor knows she hath the gift to essay

All produce offered at her mart:

For lack of will to choose the Infinite,
She closes on poor bargains,—sorry wight!

Ah, happy man who sees the Pearl of Truth!
He tries it by due test in very sooth,—

But, an you ask him how he knows,

No answer hath he ready,—cries,

“Look, look, how radiance from it flows,

That Pearl of Truth, to please all eyes!”

As though that simple man would say, “The light
Is its own evidence for men with sight!”

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