And taste the joy of the heart and eye
In the Blessed Life of Sorcery
Arthur Edward Waite was a writer and mystic best known as a collaborator of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. His prolific works in matters of occultism and the esoteric, including Holy Grail studies, Hermetic principles, alchemy, and ritual magic have faded through time but are no less worthy of study. Waite was infamous for his affiliation with Hermetic organizations, including the Golden Dawn, Freemasonry, and the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. (We shall explore those orders and their more renowned members in a future post.)
I found myself captivated by his words on this crisp autumn's night. Here, from his 1902 work entitled "A Book of Mystery and Vision" is, "The Blessed Life of Sorcery."
THE BLESSED LIFE OF SORCERY
By A.E. Waite
Hark a little and hark, for close at hand
Is the one light voice you can hear and understand
In the plash and purl of the brook!
Otherwise, over the open road, through leafy covert or lawn,
The silent wain by a silent team with its harvest-load drawn,
Though the road may rise or fall;
And only shadow'd figures slip past trough the ravish'd land,
For ever wearing the dreamful elfin look
And over the wondering guise of him who has
heard the faerie call.
But yet, and now, and surely a theme uplifted,
With the subtle, mastering melody suddenly fills the air;
From the midst of a secret centre, suddenly rifted,
The penetrant vibrant music pulses everywhere;
Through every leaf and blade of grass is sent,
As over the strings of its instrument--
Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping. The earth, with its volume stored,
Is a quivering sounding board,
And the sea, with melodies roar,
For ever and ever responds on the long, pulsating shore.
The faces of women are faces of strange enchanted flowers,
Giving forth fragrance of incense and sounds of flutes
on the deep,
In the sweetest, stillest, and gravest charm of the tardy hours;
And the children are blossoms in bud, which smile in
the light, and sleep.
White lilies, palled and pure, in shimmering cloud of
Are the choric bands of the girls;
There are royal ruddy roses of eager and splendid boys,
Heavy, yet lissom of limb, tan-faced, full of glories
Their moist lips full and intense,
Well over with rippling speech;
Yet a strange transfusion of sex and form and sense
Swims undeveloped in each;
And all the men in the land, if men be part of the scheme,
Walk through the haunted places dissolved in vision
O holy, holy, wild-sweet to the ear and eye
Is the Blessed Life and the Haunted Life
in the Land of Sorcery!
Will I not dwell in these ways for ever more?
Breathe harps and all ye strings in a world of strings,
With every voice in a world of voice and choir.
Breathe over sea and shore
Lovely and faintly and fading far away,
With a sudden tremor and hint of all unspeakable things,
As of dusk in the heart of a fire;
Lowly and faintly and fading far away,
Over the senses breathe till the senses swim;
Chant in the dells and dingles, among the groups so dim,
Standing at footpath ends--anthem, litany, hymn
Of the world's delight, from the pleasant rite
In the missal of Faerie!
The anthems swell and never a chord is lost,
The light of the Vision floats for ever around,
And a perfect peace of the heart, by an anxious
Of the life in life, in this Blessed Life is found,
All under the purple sky
Which swoons and falls in a mist--
of opal and amethyst
On fields and meadows in the Land of Sorcery.
I have voyaged far and my sails are rent;
The mast is splinter'd; the rudder is bent.
I have been where billows their might expend
On pitiless walls at the known world's end,
But turret or window or hand extended
Found I none when the quest was ended,
While an icy blast o'er the pathless track
Seized me and toss'd me, and drove me back.
Here the air is heavy with spells;
From a sky everflowing the soft charm spills;
A loving litany breathes round wavering hills
And faintly chimes in the bosks from floral bills,
Or sighs in a veil on the surface of tarns and wells.
Here too the sheathed hyacinth meadows
Suspire and yearn,
Melt in the purple spendour, flicker and burn,
Through vistas of trees prolong'd and the must-dark
of haunted dells.
Far off the glister of shining surf looks white;
How far, how soften'd comes the roll of the open sea!
And the long, low-breathing wind is hushed as a wind
The amber light of the afternoon is caught
And hidden in thickets and traps which mazy leaves
Or talismanic figures of flowers that none can name--
But the nameless mystic people:
It moves in tongues of fire on vane and steeple,
Or crumbling towards in pageants of auburn flame.
The inhibited life of man is like a product of sorcery.. External things are communicated to us by virtue of their adjustment with the faculties which express us in just that measure, and possessing that correspondence between the appearance and the reality, which suggests the idea of magic, and herein is the mystery of all the sacraments. The transformation of the Magic of Nature into the Divine Magic is the great secret. This transformation takes place in virtue of another adjustment between the mind quickened by a saving light and the external mystery, which thus becomes sacramental. By yielding implicitly to the enchantment of the first sense of Nature, we condone our exile and abide in a continued illusion, though no doubt it remains benevolent and offers a delectable ministry. Such enchantment dissolves under the consciousness of another citizenship.
Photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London