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Short poem

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell

              1One, who is not, we see: but one, whom we see not, is:
              2Surely this is not that: but that is assuredly this.

              3What, and wherefore, and whence? for under is over and under:
              4If thunder could be without lightning, lightning could be without thunder.

              5Doubt is faith in the main: but faith, on the whole, is doubt:
              6We cannot believe by proof: but could we believe without?

              7Why, and whither, and how? for barley and rye are not clover:
              8Neither are straight lines curves: yet over is under and over.

              9Two and two may be four: but four and four are not eight:
            10Fate and God may be twain: but God is the same thing as fate.

            11Ask a man what he thinks, and get from a man what he feels:
            12God, once caught in the fact, shows you a fair pair of heels.

            13Body and spirit are twins: God only knows which is which:
            14The soul squats down in the flesh, like a tinker drunk in a ditch.

            15More is the whole than a part: but half is more than the whole:
            16Clearly, the soul is the body: but is not the body the soul?

            17One and two are not one: but one and nothing is two:
            18Truth can hardly be false, if falsehood cannot be true.

            19Once the mastodon was: pterodactyls were common as cocks:
            20Then the mammoth was God: now is He a prize ox.

            21Parallels all things are: yet many of these are askew:
            22You are certainly I: but certainly I am not you.

            23Springs the rock from the plain, shoots the stream from the rock:
            24Cocks exist for the hen: but hens exist for the cock.

            25God, whom we see not, is: and God, who is not, we see:
            26Fiddle, we know, is diddle: and diddle, we take it, is dee.


1] The poem is a parody of Tennyson's "The Higher Pantheism." Swinburne writes in a letter of January 15, 1870: "I looked at Tennyson's `Higher Pantheism' again -- not bad verse altogether, but what gabble and babble of half-hatched thoughts in half-baked words! and wrote at the tail of this summary of his theology:

`God, whom we see not, is; and God, who is not, we see:
Fiddle, we know, is diddle: and diddle is possibly dee.'
I think it is terse and accurate as a Tennysonian compendium." (The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, ed. Sir Edmund Gosse and Thomas James Wise [London: William Heinemann, 1926]: II, 86).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): II, 787-88.
First publication date: 1880
Publication date note: Algernon Charles Swinburne, The Heptalogia; or, The Seven against Sense: A Cap with Seven Bells ... (London: Chatto and Windus, 1880): 1-6. end S956 H46 1880 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.399.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Form: couplets

Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne