Thomas Edward Brown

Here you will find the Long Poem Risus Dei of poet Thomas Edward Brown

Risus Dei

Methinks in Him there dwells alway
 A sea of laughter very deep,
 Where the leviathans leap,
 And little children play,
 Their white feet twinkling on its crisped edge;
 But in the outer bay
 The strong man drives the wedge
 Of polished limbs,
 And swims.
 Yet there is one will say:--
 'It is but shallow, neither is it broad'--
 And so he frowns; but is he nearer God?

 One saith that God is in the note of bird,
 And piping wind, and brook,
 And all the joyful things that speak no word:
 Then if from sunny nook
 Or shade a fair child's laugh
 Is heard,
 Is not God half?
 And if a strong man gird
 His loins for laughter, stirred
 By trick of ape or calf--
 Is he no better than a cawing rook?

 Nay 'tis a Godlike function; laugh thy fill!
 Mirth comes to thee unsought;
 Mirth sweeps before it like a flood the mill
 Of languaged logic; thought
 Hath not its source so high;
 The will
 Must let it by:
 For though the heavens are still,
 God sits upon His hill,
 And sees the shadows fly;
 And if He laughs at fools, why should He not?

 'Yet hath a fool a laugh'--Yea, of a sort;
 God careth for the fools;
 The chemic tools
 Of laughter He hath given them, and some toys
 Of sense, as 'twere a small retort
 Wherein they may collect the joys
 Of natural giggling, as becomes their state:
 The fool is not inhuman, making sport
 For such as would not gladly be without
 That old familiar noise:
 Since, though he laugh not, he can cachinnate--
 This also is of God, we may not doubt.
 'Is there an empty laugh?' Best called a shell
 From which a laugh has flown,
 A mask, a well
 That hath no water of its own,
 Part echo of a groan,
 Which, if it hide a cheat,
 Is a base counterfeit;
 But if one borrow
 A cloak to wrap a sorrow
 That it may pass unknown,
 Then can it not be empty. God doth dwell
 Behind the feigned gladness,
 Inhabiting a sacred core of sadness.

 'Yet is there not an evil laugh?' Content--
 What follows?
 When Satan fills the hollows
 Of his bolt-riven heart
 With spasms of unrest,
 And calls it laughter; if it give relief
 To his great grief,
 Grudge not the dreadful jest.
 But if the laugh be aimed
 At any good thing that it be ashamed,
 And blush thereafter,
 Then it is evil, and it is not laughter.

 There are who laugh, but know not why:
 Whether the force
 Of simple health and vigour seek a course
 Extravagant, as when a wave runs high,
 And tips with crest of foam the incontinent curve,
 Or if it be reserve
 Of power collected for a goal, which had,
 Behold! the man is fresh. So when strung nerve,
 Stout heart, pent breath, have brought you to the source
 Of a great river, on the topmost stie
 Of cliff, then have you bad
 All heaven to laugh with you; yet somewhere nigh
 A shepherd lad
 Has wondering looked, and deemed that you were mad.