When the Body in Life Feels the Spirit

by Robert Herrick

She. But have you never forgotten the body, dreamed what it would be to feel God? You have known those moments when your soul, losing the sense of contact with men or women, groped alone, in an enveloping calm, and knew content. I have had it in times of intoxication from music—not the personal, passionate music of to-day, but some one or two notes that sink the mazy present into darkness. I knew that my senses were gone for the time, and in their place I held a comfortable consciousness of power. There have been other times—in Lent, at the close of the drama of Christ—beside the sea—after a long dance—illusory moments when one forgot the body and wondered.

He. I know. One night in the Sierras we camped high up above the summits of the range. The altitude, perhaps, or the long ride through the forest, kept me awake. Our fires died down; a chalky mist rose from the valleys, and, filtering through the ravines, at last capped the granite heads. The smouldering tree-trunks we had lit for fires and the little patch of rock where we lay, made an island in that white sea. Between us and the black spaces among the stars there was nothing. How eternally quiet it was! I can feel that isolation now coming over my soul like the stealthy fog, until I lay there, unconscious of my body, in a wondering placidity, watching the stars burn and fade. I could seem to feel them whirl in their way through the heavens. And then a thought detached itself from me, the conception of an eternity passed in placidity like that without the pains of sense, the obligations of action; I loved it then—that cold residence of thought!

She. You have known it, too. Those moments when the body in life feels the state of spirit come rarely and awe one. Dear heart, perhaps if our spirits were purified and experienced we should welcome that perpetual contemplation. We cannot be Janus-faced, but the truth may lie with the monks, who killed this life in order to obtain a grander one.