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The Hand and Foot

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The hand and foot that stir not, they shall find
Sooner than all the rightful place to go;
Now in their motion free as roving wind,
Though first no snail more limited and slow;
I mark them full of labor all the day,
Each active motion made in perfect rest;
They cannot from their path mistaken stray,
Though ’tis not theirs, yet in it they are blest;
The bird has not their hidden track found out,
Nor cunning fox, though full of art he be;
It is the way unseen, the certain route,
Where ever bound, yet thou art ever free;
The path of Him, whose perfect law of love
Bids spheres and atoms in just order move.



Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)
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The Hand and Foot

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  • Though Jones Very was a minor figure in Transcendentalist circles, his poetry and criticism were highly regarded by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and the pioneering educator Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. His close study of Shakespeare led him to write almost exclusively in Shakespearian sonnets, and his sequences on religion and nature gained recognition for their graceful lyricism. However, Very’s intense religious devotion soon led him to believe that he was Christ incarnate, or the messiah—and that his poetry was the product of divine inspiration. He was dismissed from his studies at Harvard Divinity School over this declaration, and he was eventually admitted to an insane asylum. Years later, Very no longer felt he served as God’s vessel; he retired to his family’s home in Salem, Massachusetts, where he lived with his two sisters until his death in 1880.

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