The Naked Goddess

Image source
James Thomson

The first half of a poem, reprinted in the monthly publication Our Corner


Four broad beech-trees great of hold,

Crowned the green, smooth-swelling knoll;

There She stood, the glorious form

Dazzling with its beauty warm;

Naked as the sun of noon,

Naked as the midnight moon:

And around her, tame and mild,

All the forest creatures wild—

Lion, panther, kid, and fawn,

Eagle, hawk, and dove, all drawn

By the magic of her splendor,

By her great voice, rich and tender,

Whereof every beast and bird

Understood each tone and word,

While she fondled and carest,

Playing freaks of joyous zest.


Suddenly the lion stood,

Turned and saw the multitude,

Swelled his mighty front in ire,

Roared the roar of raging fire:

Then she turned, the living light,

Sprang erect, grew up in height,

Smote them with the flash and blaze

Of her terrible, swift gaze;

A diving, flushed, throbbing form,

Dreadfuller than the blackest storm.


All the forest creatures cowered,

Trembling, moaning, overpowered;

All the simple folk who saw

Sank upon their knees in awe

Of this goddess, fierce and splendid,

Whom they witless had offended;

And they murmured out faint prayers,

Inarticulate despairs,

Till her haught and angry mien

Grew more gentle and serene.


Stood the high priest forth, and went

Halfway up the green ascent;

There began a preachment long

Of the great and grievous wrong

She unto her own soul wrought

In thus living without thought

Of the Gods who sain and save,

Of the life beyond the grave;

Living with the beasts that perish,

Far from all the rites that cherish

Hope and faith and holy love,

And appease the thrones above:

Full of unction pled the preacher,

Let her come, and they would teach her

Spirit strangled in the mesh

Of the vile and sinful flesh,

How to gain the heavenly prize,

How grow meet for Paradise;

Penance, prayer, self-sacrifice,

Fasting, cloistered solitude,

Mind uplifted, heart subdued;

Thus a Virgin, clean and chaste,

In the Bridegroom’s arms embraced.

Vestal sister’s hooded gown,

Straight and strait, of dismal brown,

Here he proffered, and laid down

On the green grass like a frown.


Then stood forth the old arch-sage,

Wrinkled more with thought than age:

What could worse afflict, deject

Any well-trained intellect

Than in savage forest seeing

Such a full-grown human being

With the beasts and birds at play,

Ignorant and wild as they?

Sciences and arts, by which

Man makes Nature’s poor life rich,

Dominates the world around,

Proves himself its king self-crowned,

She knew nothing of them—she

Knew not even what they be!

Body naked to the air,

And the reason just as bare!

Yet (since circumstance, that can

Hinder the full growth of an,

Cannot kill the seeds of worth

Innate in the Lord of Earth),

Yet she might be taught and brought

To full sovranty of thought,

Crowned with reason’s glorious crown.

So he tendered and laid down

Somber grey beside the brown

Amplest philosophic gown.

Title of volume of first printing
Our Corner
Annie Besant
Page numbers in original volume

Thomson, James. "The Naked Goddess." Our Corner, vol. i, no. 3, 1883, 166-169. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, Accessed 17 Nov. 2016.