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Lowell, James Russell - We see but half the causes of our deeds



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Poems of James Russell Lowell

We see but half the causes of our deeds
Seeking them wholly in the outer life
And heedless of the encircling spirit world
Which, though unseen, is felt and sows in us
All germs of pure and world wide purposes
From one stage of our being to the next
We pass unconscious o’er a slender bridge
The momentary work of unseen hands
Which crumbles down behind us; looking back
We see the other shore, the gulf between
And marvelling how we won to where we stand
Content ourselves to call the builder Chance
We trace the wisdom to the apple’s fall
Not to the birth throes of a mighty truth


We call our sorrows Destiny, but ought
Rather to name our high successes so
Only the instincts of great souls are Fate
And have predestined sway; all other things
Except by leave of us, could never be
For Destiny is but the breath of god
Still moving in us, the last fragment left
Of our unfallen nature, waking oft
Within our thought to beckon us beyond
The narrow circle of the seen and known
And always tending to a noble end
As all things must that overrule the soul
And for a space unseen the helmsman, Will

The source of the experience

Lowell, James Russell

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