No man can act against his nature. Yet
a pity stirred his hands that such a host
of men should live unknowing; a regret
that men should fret on light's tremendous coast
in gnat‑excitements. Then his thoughts again
saw beyond petty whirrs, beyond the dark of pain –
saw gnat‑like frenzy of entangled shapes,
saw pain a fungus on the brightest growth,
saw infinite power descend to trivial rapes,
saw ugliness and beauty pledge their troth,
saw all as real, all as much a part
of the one life which tapped its message in his heart.
Men strove for this or that ambition, fought
for gawds of pain, to bring a fancy true
of fear or love; and all the while they sought
only to know their natures. Yes, they knew
the truth, but feared it; feared the full release
of resting on the earth, deep in accepted peace.
Was it so awful to be still awhile,
to ask no more than life? Men feared the pause.
Their thoughts were gnats, a fretful net of guile,
or sadness drifting back. They fled the cause,
the Whole, which, contemplated, soon resolved
to powerful calm the forms so clashingly involved.
He called it God because his mother spoke
that name when softly in the night she bent
with dark eyes wet above him, and he woke
to scents of her dark hair. Too soon she went
back rustling to her own forbidden bed;
too soon, he wept, too soon, she sickened and was dead.
God is exalted past all cruelty
and love. He works out his unending life.
All things are knitted. Strange, that love should be
a figment bannered on these fields of strife,
the earth, the stars; and yet not strange. Her eyes
still wetly looked on him, glistening in dusky skies.
They all were dead or broken, put aside,
the men whom he had loved, thrust underground.
Adrian, perished in his wilful pride,
his brave strong body shamed, then vilely drowned,
because he cried for truth and spoke too loud
against the gruesome god who soothed and stirred the crowd.
Jarig was drinking still by candlelight,
sogged in the drunkard's sense of aimless power,
a vague delirium that yet guessed aright
far deeper than Descartes, though turning sour
at dawn. Good, Jarig! drink. Your daze, my friend,
refutes philosophers, and priests too, in the end.
Outside of God is nothing, yet we know
that sin and pain exist. Then tell me how
your God stands evil's test. The breezes blow
along the Hout Gracht, and the topmost bough
rustles, like Hannah's silk. The limetrees wake
and murmur in the peace that fragrantly they make.
All sin and error's necessary. All
in Nature is divine. Freewill's a word.
The Kermes roared. He watched the peasants sprawl,
and Adrian's strong and joyous voice he heard.
They talked of Bruno, in the bookshop, while
grave Meyer smoked his pipe and gave a sudden smile.
The shouters in the synagogue were stilled,
caught in the aftermath of utter hate.
The market‑hours droned on. A girl had spilled
some milk across the steps. The day grew late.
His fellow‑Jews were trembling in the spell
of wild Anathema that doomed his soul to hell.
"We execrate, we excommunicate
Spinoza . . . cast him out . . . now may the ban
of Joshua on Jericho, the weight
of all Elijah's curses crush the man,
and all the maledictions of the Book . . . "
The jealous god must speak, the Law that he forsook.
And Rembrandt standing wetted in the mud
with golden light within his ruthless eyes . . .
The oakgroves by the dunes, the tide in flood
along the Vliet, the chimes of evening‑skies . . .
Thank God his father died and never heard
before the Torah shrine the bestial cursing word.
"He flees from God like Adam from the Fall,
The wrath of God shall find him." Tenderly
the heavens darkened at the swallow's call
to green, at Rynsburg; and he sighed to see
the treetops flatten, while a thrush sang twice,
and then he warmed his milk and ate his sweetened rice.
Claria Maria and the summer‑maze
faded. The grinding wheels now screeched no more.
He coughed. So Hannah coughed. Her delicate ways
bleached Clara's graces; and the griefs she bore.
Da Costa fought the world's great lie, and died;
he gave his dreaming heart to bless what he defied.
To fight in vain! Yet fighting‑men must fight.
The face of Adrian came back, to blench,
befouled in prison; then, by lanternlight,
flushed in the barn beside the dancing wench.
God, Adrian, you died well . . . and Jarig blinks
in that old airless room, and nods awhile, and drinks.
Yes, it was good to fight, but better still
to have come to fighting's end. His driven race
had fought, and out of stricken passionate will
there broke his understanding: Hannah's face
when, coughing done, she brooded, wholly free
from anger or despair, serene with ecstasy.
Yes, luck to Jan de Witt, who'll doubtless fail.
The pulpits blaze with rancour. Tricked, the crowd
will rage with black religion and assail
the man who works for freedom and is proud.
Yes, luck to Jan de Witt, who cannot fail:
he proudly follows out his nature's dangerous trail.
The difficult thought burned ghostly in his brain,
tingling his fingertips, a plea for aid.
The way held come: he saw it all again,
rich with the light‑core and converging shade;
and for one throb of unifying thought
he passed into that light, and found the thing he sought.
Spinoza left the past, the many men
crumbling in time's dark acids; left today,
the urgencies that sometimes drove his pen.
He rose up from the pallet where he lay,
went to the window, breathed the evening air,
and watched below the dusk invade the garden‑square.
There thirty‑six small cottages stood round,
and thirty‑six old women sat and looked
at dusk‑fumes rising coolly from the ground,
all silent at their windows, dinners cooked.
The gossip‑time was ended, and the flowers,
which day had tended well, now preened for lazy hours.
He knew each peasant face beneath its cap
of rearing white, heoknew the peasant‑lives,
he savoured there the strong and patient sap,
the fullness held in these old sturdy wives
who murmured like the bees amid their beds
of rose and cabbage‑lines, nodding their wise old heads.
He coughed. The damp had rasped his throat. He heard
the uneasy blur of traffic, which went by.
Slowly the evening sighed. The pensioners stirred
and mused beneath the star‑thatched sheltering sky.
"The Institute of the Holy Spirit:" well,
their faith went past their creed, they knew but could not
And he could tell. One pulse, it bowed his head
and hurt his life, the desperate need to speak,
to speak, ah God . . . and when the word was said,
to have no answer. Yet why should he seek
an answer save from the sustaining voice
of life itself? Ah, God, he had a heavy choice.
The choice of joy! Were he to choose again,
held choose his way, he's choose it, though the track
had been a thousandfold more strewn with pain.
On such a journey there's no turning‑back.
Held gone with nature, and now death was near,
he knew the power of peace which drove away all fear.
Joy of the unbared world! The dance of stars
that deepened in his eyes as now he gazed!
The roses in the gloom, the windowbars
closing the small clean kitchens, God be praised!
Only the pang was left, the piteous ache
to show the truth to men, to bless their souls awake.
And vanity returned, then died away.
The deepening space of stars remained above;
The gloom of roses hid the busy day;
and Hannah's face came closer, grave with love.
There's nothing perfect or imperfect. See
the present moment shrined as clear eternity.
And in eternity all sin and error
are pure things as the ebb and flow of seas,
the movement of the stars. The abrupt terror
flashed out, and he coughed blood. This knowledge frees
the man who lives it. Beautiful the night,
and from the murmuring glooms a lingering bird took flight,
as gently on the cracked old windowsill
he laid his hands, and saw the heavens outspread,
the whole necessity, the darkening will,
life's garments and then life ungarmented,
he saw it all, within himself he saw,
and human life a mounting wave of perfect law.
SOURCE: Lindsay, Jack. Collected Poems, illustrated by Helen Lindsay. Lake Forest, IL: The Cheiron Press, 1981. xvi, 605 p.,  leaves of plates. Signed. Copy #31. “Spinoza” (written in period 1933-1935): pp. 223-227.
of Jack Lindsay's Books
Includes all of the following Lindsay links & more
Collected Poems [Section Headnotes] by Jack Lindsay
"Giordano Bruno" by Jack Lindsay
"A Note on My Dialectic" by Jack Lindsay
"Towards a Marxist Aesthetic" by Jack Lindsay
Adorno and the Frankfurt School by Jack Lindsay
Jack Lindsay and British Poetry in the 1930s by Adrian Caesar
"The Origins of Jack Lindsay's Contributions to British Marxist Thought" by Joel R. Brouwer
Home Page | Site
Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links
CONTACT Ralph Dumain
Uploaded 22 August 2010
Site ©1999-2010 Ralph Dumain