The Soul! What is it? Can a mortal tell,
And by philosophy the cause expound,
How we become possessed of deathless souls,
And how the soul exists when life is gone?
Or had the soul a pre-existent state,
Was it begotten? or was it infused
As at the first when Adam got his soul?
Ere born the child has life, say has it then
A soul? Or does it enter with the first
Breath drawn when it assumes distinctive life?
Is there an embryo of soul? and does
It gradually reach maturity?
Or comes it at the first a latent power
Felt in our infancy but not revealed?
Or does it sleep till conscience finds a voice?
Or till the mind puts forth its energies?
Or is the mind the soul? that mighty power
Which holds its empire in the human brain?
Can mind be measur'd by the bulk and shape
Of brains? And do their texture indicate
The varied workings of the intellect?
But is there aught in brains to guide my search
In seeking for the lodgment of the soul?
In vain I try with microscopic art
To find the smallest soul-mark in the brain--
Nor electricity altho' confessed
The subtlest matter yet to mortals known,
Can aid my exploration of the soul.
Tho' quick its flight yet thought is quicker still.
Electric fluid is not intellect,
Nor can its powers galvanize the soul.
The mind can act on matter, but not all
The elements of earth can hurt the soul.
It is not matter, nor can it be called
Life animate, nor yet sagacity.
Where does it lodge? the brain? or in the heart?
Or does it permeate the whole of man--
Nerves, blood and sinews--all his mortal parts?
It is not life alone--the brutes have life
But not a soul, that great enobling gift
Belongs to a man alone--man only has a Soul.
And yet it comes with life, but does not end
In death; the soul immortal never dies.
Shall I consult Dick, Paley, Butler, Locke,
And will they tell me all I want to know?
Or must I stand ashore while they launch out
Upon this ocean of perplexing thought?
Some sail too far and leave my sight, and some,
Afraid to venture, scarcely leave the shore;
Some tell too much and some don't tell enough,
They weary me with their philosophy.
Shall physiology assist my search?
Or anatomical analysis?
Or searching chemistry the question solve?
Or must I end where I the search began
In total ignorance about my soul?
Shall men well skill'd in metaphysics, give
Their deep-toned disquisitions of the soul,
And by their own confusion, but confound,
And leave me more in doubt by their discourse,
And revelation's clearer light be dimmed
With smoke from their defective little lamps.
Distress'd with doubts, I turn my thoughts to God,
Who points me to His Word, and there I learn
That my immortal soul is God's own breath,
And, therefore, I no more the soul can scan
Than I can Him who breathed that soul in man.