To the Ascending Moon

Rise, rise, aerial creature, fill the sky
With supreme wonder, and the bleak earth wash
With mystery! Pale, pale enchantress, steer
Thy flight high up into the purple blue,
Where faint the stars beholding — rain from there
Thy lucent influence upon this sphere!
    I fear thee, sacred mother of the mad!
With thy deliberate magic thou of old
Didst soothe the perplexed brains of idiots whipped,
And scared, and lacerated for their cure—
Ay, thou didst spread the balm of sleep on them,
Give to their minds a curvèd emptiness
Of silence like the heaven thou dwellest in;
Yet didst thou also, with thy rayless light,
Make mad the surest, draw from their smooth beds
The very sons of Prudence, maniacs
To wander forth among the bushes, howl
Abroad like eager wolves, and snatch the air!
Oft didst thou watch them prowl among the tombs
Inviolate of the patient dead, toiling
In deeds obscure with stealthy ecstasy,
And thou didst palely peer among them, and
Expressly shine into their unhinged eyes!
I fear thee, languid mother of the mad!
For thou hast still thy alien influence;
Thou dost sow forth thro’ all the fields and hills,
And in all chambers of the natural earth,
A difference most strange and luminous.
This tree, that was the river sycamore,
Is in thy pensive effluence become
But the mind’s mystic essence of a tree,
Upright luxuriance thought upon—the stream
Is liquid timeless motion undefined—
The world’s a gesture dim. Like rapturous
Which can the rigorous concrete obscure
Unto annihilation, and create
Upon the dark a universal vision,
Thou—even on this bold and local earth,
The site of the obtruding actual—
Thou dost erect in awful purity
The filmy architecture of all dreams.
And they are perfect. Thou dost shed like light
Perfection, and a vision give to man
Of things superior to the tough act,
Existence, and almost co-equals of
His own unnamed, and free, and infinite wish!
Phantoms, phantoms of the transfixed mind!
   Pour down, O moon, upon the listening earth—
The earth unthinking, thy still eloquence!
Shine in the children’s eyes. They drink thy light,
And laugh in innocence of sorcery,
And love thy silver. I laugh not, nor gaze
With half-closed lids upon the awakened night.
Nay, oft when thou art hailed above the hill,
I learn not forth, I hide myself in tasks,
Even to the blunt comfort of routine
I cling, to drowse my soul against thy charm,
Yearning for thee, ethereal miracle!

From Colors of life; poems and songs and sonnets (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1918) by Max Eastman. Copyright © Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. This poem is in the public domain.