The Trial by Existence

and to know definitely what he thinks about the soul;
EVEN the bravest that are slain 
Shall not dissemble their surprise 
On waking to find valor reign, 
Even as on earth, in paradise; 
And where they sought without the sword 
Wide fields of asphodel fore'er, 
To find that the utmost reward 
Of daring should be still to dare. 
The light of heaven falls whole and white 
And is not shattered into dyes, 
The light for ever is morning light; 
The hills are verdured pasture-wise; 
The angel hosts with freshness go, 
And seek with laughter what to brave;— 
And binding all is the hushed snow 
Of the far-distant breaking wave. 
And from a cliff-top is proclaimed 
The gathering of the souls for birth, 
The trial by existence named, 
The obscuration upon earth. 
And the slant spirits trooping by 
In streams and cross- and counter-streams 
Can but give ear to that sweet cry 
For its suggestion of what dreams! 
And the more loitering are turned 
To view once more the sacrifice 
Of those who for some good discerned 
Will gladly give up paradise. 
And a white shimmering concourse rolls 
Toward the throne to witness there 
The speeding of devoted souls 
Which God makes his especial care. 
And none are taken but who will, 
Having first heard the life read out 
That opens earthward, good and ill, 
Beyond the shadow of a doubt; 
And very beautifully God limns, 
And tenderly, life's little dream, 
But naught extenuates or dims, 
Setting the thing that is supreme. 
Nor is there wanting in the press 
Some spirit to stand simply forth, 
Heroic in its nakedness, 
Against the uttermost of earth. 
The tale of earth's unhonored things 
Sounds nobler there than 'neath the sun; 
And the mind whirls and the heart sings, 
And a shout greets the daring one. 
But always God speaks at the end: 
“One thought in agony of strife 
The bravest would have by for friend, 
The memory that he chose the life; 
But the pure fate to which you go 
Admits no memory of choice, 
Or the woe were not earthly woe 
To which you give the assenting voice.”
And so the choice must be again, 
But the last choice is still the same; 
And the awe passes wonder then, 
And a hush falls for all acclaim. 
And God has taken a flower of gold 
And broken it, and used therefrom 
The mystic link to bind and hold 
Spirit to matter till death come. 
'Tis of the essence of life here, 
Though we choose greatly, still to lack 
The lasting memory at all clear, 
That life has for us on the wrack 
Nothing but what we somehow chose; 
Thus are we wholly stripped of pride 
In the pain that has but one close, 
Bearing it crushed and mystified.