Guests in Eden

that induced "a tighter breathing and zero at the bone." Thence came her realization of the eternal adventure of love, 'that is not tripped and caught in the petty ditch of a grave, but goes on in "white election" past "this brief tragedy of flesh." Living in eternal life, she knew immortality not as a mere ticking continuation of the one-dimensional time-line, but as a right angle to time. In this immediacy of knowledge, this mysticism of the vivid heart, she could say: Before birth was, or after death shall be, I am. So, like Whitman, she knew herself no Dead End Kid of the Universe, but an eternal ad­venturer afoot and light-hearted on the open roads of a fathom­ less universe. For her, as for Thoreau, there was more day to dawn: the sun was but a morning star; the earth but a tent of darkness, till the dawn when the shadows flee away.

Here is poetry, therefore, of the utmost value for America; here is poetry and life "too intrinsic for renown." Beyond ac­tion and acquisition, beyond the mice and men of time and the tobacco roads of space, beyond debunking from the nega­tive left or propaganda from the sterile right, beyond utility and beyond futility, beyond pragmatic materialism or albino idealism, lies this burning center; the white fire that keeps earth still (at its heart) a star. She is the intense sheer con­sciousness of the American spirit, candid and clear, awake and aware, in that creative intensity that no atomic bomb can frighten and no temptation of power can seduce. The eternal essence of the American spirit is in her-tanged, humorous, shrewd, caustic, idealistic with a burning flame, strong in the tragic sense of life, armored not with steel but with heaven. In her America faces the uncertain future with unshaken assur­ance, knowing our destiny and dream

"Ungained, it may be, by a life's low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring

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Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
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Last updated on March 10, 2008

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