by Edward Carpenter (1844 - 1929)

The babe
Language: English 
A trio perfect: the man, the woman, and the babe:
     And herein all Creation. 
The two, with wonder in their eyes, from opposite worlds 
Of sex, of ancestry, pursuits, traditions, 
Each other suddenly, amazed, confronting -- 
A nameless glory each in each surmising. 
A frenzy as of Gods -- 
Imperial rage, flinging the goods of the world aside as dross, 
     to reach to a priceless treasure:  
He madly invasive, 
She deeply wise, and drawing farther back 
Even to the gates of Paradise as he approaches:  
Strange ecstasy of warfare!   
Seisin and ravishment of souls and bodies, 
Veils rent asunder,  
Heaven opening measureless, overhead, in splendour,  
And all life changed, transfigured!  
And then a calm. 
Weeks of humdrum and mortal commonplace, 
And months perchance in monotone of toil, 
But still behind it all some deep remembrance, 
Some sure reliance, 
And sweet and secret knowledge in each other. 
And then the Babe: 
A tiny perfect sea-shell on the shore 
By the waves gently laid (the awful waves!) -- 
By trembling hands received -- a folded message --  
A babe yet slumbering, with a ripple on its face 
Remindful of the ocean 
And two twined forms that overbend it, smiling, 
And wonder to what land Love must have journeyed, 
Who brought this back -- this word of sweetest meaning:  
Two lives made one, and visible as one.    
And herein all Creation.

J. Duke sets stanzas 5-7

Confirmed with Edward Carpenter, Who Shall Command the Heart, London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., 1902, pages 57 - 58.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

  • by John Woods Duke (1899 - 1984), "The babe", 1924, published 1925, copyright © 1925, stanzas 5-7 [mezzo-soprano and piano], G. Schirmer; note: the setting begins with the words 'A tiny perfect sea-shell on the shore' [ sung text checked 1 time]

Researcher for this text: Melanie Trumbull

Text added to the website: 2015-11-03 00:00:00
Last modified: 2015-11-03 15:56:42
Line count: 34
Word count: 222