A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields/The Hope in God (Alfred de Musset)



There exists, it is said, a philosophy
That needs no revelation, but unlocks
The gates with ease, that guard life's mystery,
And safely steers between the dangerous rocks,
Indifference and Religion. Be it so.
Where are these system—makers that can find
Truth without faith? It would be worth to know.
Powerless sophists swelled with empty wind,
What are their arguments? What authority
Are they invested with? One proudly says,
Two principles exist for all eternity
That war on earth; by turns each strength displays,
And triumphs o'er the other. One descries,
Far in the solitary heavens, a god
Who cares not, infinitely great and wise,
For human altars, or for man—a clod.
Pythagoras and Leibnitz think souls change;
Descartes forsakes us in the whirlwind's breast;
Montaigne inquires, but nothing can arrange;
Pascal his own dream flies, by fear possessed;
Pyrrho doubts all, and deems our natures blind;
Zeno makes us insensible; Voltaire
Throws down whatever stands with furious mind;
Spinosa leaves his subject in despair:
Searching in vain, he sees God everywhere,
Or deems he sees; the metaphysician Locke

Makes man a mere machine; at last to scare
All thinkers, and their futile efforts mock,
And, as it were, the ruin to achieve
Of all philosophy, comes the German Kant:
A spectre in the fogs and clouds of eve,
Not without eloquence, but arrogant,
He sees heaven empty, and the end of all
Chaos and nothingness. Oh, can it be!
Must human science tumble thus and fall?
Is this the fate of proud philosophy?
After five thousand years of cruel doubt,
After such bold and persevering toil,
Is that the last word? Every hope shut out;
Must speculation thus, alas! recoil?
Oh, senseless efforts, miserable pains,
That sought the truth in such erratic rings!
Pinions we need to reach the heavenly plains;
What is the wish, without faith's eagle wings?
I pity you, O speculators wise!
Your wounded pride and torments have I known,
And felt the sudden shudder and surprise,
Before the Infinite, as I stood alone!
Ah well!—Together let us pray, we must,
For all our labours have been vain, we feel;
Or if your bodies be reduced to dust,
Let me upon your tombs devoutly kneel.
Come, pagan sages, in all science great,
Dreamers bygone, and dreamers of to-day,
Prayer is a cry—the cry of hope elate,
That God may answer us. Oh, let us pray!
Our pains and efforts note, O Holy One!
The rest forget, O Merciful and True!
If heaven be empty, prayer offend can none,
If some One hear us, may He pity too!