Knowledge is power, the people cry; Grave men the lure repeat: After some rarer thing I sigh, That makes the pulses beat.
Old truths, new facts, they preach aloud— Their tones like wisdom fall: One sunbeam glancing on a cloud Hints things beyond them all.
* * * * *
But something is not right within; High hopes are far gone by. Was it a bootless aim—to win Sight of a loftier sky?
They preach men should not faint, but pray, And seek until they find; But God is very far away, Nor is his countenance kind.
Yet every night my father prayed, Withdrawing from the throng! Some answer must have come that made His heart so high and strong!
Once more I'll seek the God of men, Redeeming childhood's vow.— —I failed with bitter weeping then, And fail cold-hearted now!
Why search for God? A man I tread This old life-bearing earth; High thoughts awake and lift my head— In me they have their birth.
The preacher says a Christian must Do all the good he can:— I must be noble, true, and just, Because I am a man!
They say a man must watch, and keep Lamp burning, garments white, Else he shall sit without and weep When Christ comes home at night:—
A man must hold his honour free, His conscience must not stain, Or soil, I say, the dignity Of heart and blood and brain!
Yes, I say well—said words are cheap! For action man was born! What praise will my one talent reap? What grapes are on my thorn?
Have high words kept me pure enough? In evil have I no part? Hath not my bosom "perilous stuff That weighs upon the heart"?
I am not that which I do praise; I do not that I say; I sit a talker in the ways, A dreamer in the day!
The preacher's words are true, I know— That man may lose his life; That every man must downward go Without the upward strife.
'Twere well my soul should cease to roam, Should seek and have and hold! It may be there is yet a home In that religion old.
Again I kneel, again I pray: Wilt thou be God to me? Wilt thou give ear to what I say, And lift me up to thee?
Lord, is it true? Oh, vision high! The clouds of heaven dispart; An opening depth of loving sky Looks down into my heart!
There is a home wherein to dwell— The very heart of light! Thyself my sun immutable, My moon and stars all night!
I thank thee, Lord. It must be so, Its beauty is so good. Up in my heart thou mad'st it go, And I have understood.
The clouds return. The common day Falls on me like a No; But I have seen what might be—may, And with a hope I go.
I am a stranger in the land; It gives no welcome dear; Its lilies bloom not for my hand, Its roses for my cheer.
The sunshine used to make me glad, But now it knows me not; This weight of brightness makes me sad— It isolates a blot.
I am forgotten by the hills, And by the river's play; No look of recognition thrills The features of the day.
Then only am I moved to song, When down the darkening street, While vanishes the scattered throng, The driving rain I meet.
The rain pours down. My thoughts awake, Like flowers that languished long; From bare cold hills the night-winds break, From me the unwonted song.
I read the Bible with my eyes, But hardly with my brain; Should this the meaning recognize, My heart yet reads in vain.
These words of promise and of woe Seem but a tinkling sound; As through an ancient tomb I go, With dust-filled urns around.
Or, as a sadly searching child, Afar from love and home, Sits in an ancient chamber, piled With scroll and musty tome,
So I, in these epistles old From men of heavenly care, Find all the thoughts of other mould Than I can love or share.
No sympathy with mine they show, Their world is not the same; They move me not with joy or woe, They touch me not with blame.
I hear no word that calls my life, Or owns my struggling powers; Those ancient ages had their strife, But not a strife like ours.
Oh, not like men they move and speak, Those pictures in old panes! They alter not their aspect meek For all the winds and rains!
Their thoughts are full of figures strange, Of Jewish forms and rites: A world of air and sea I range, Of mornings and of nights!
I turn me to the gospel-tale:— My hope is faint with fear That hungriest search will not avail To find a refuge here.
A misty wind blows bare and rude From dead seas of the past; And through the clouds that halt and brood, Dim dawns a shape at last:
A sad worn man who bows his face, And treads a frightful path, To save an abject hopeless race From an eternal wrath.
Kind words he speaks—but all the time As from a formless height To which no human foot can climb— Half-swathed in ancient night.
Nay, sometimes, and to gentle heart, Unkind words from him go! Surely it is no saviour's part To speak to women so!
Much rather would I refuge take With Mary, dear to me, To whom that rough hard speech he spake— What have I to do with thee?
Surely I know men tenderer, Women of larger soul, Who need no prayer their hearts to stir, Who always would make whole!
Oftenest he looks a weary saint, Embalmed in pallid gleam; Listless and sad, without complaint, Like dead man in a dream.
And, at the best, he is uplift A spectacle, a show:— The worth of such an outworn gift I know too much to know!
How find the love to pay my debt?— He leads me from the sun!— Yet it is hard men should forget A good deed ever done!—
Forget that he, to foil a curse, Did, on that altar-hill, Sun of a sunless universe, Hang dying, patient, still!
But what is He, whose pardon slow At so much blood is priced?— If such thou art, O Jove, I go To the Promethean Christ!
A word within says I am to blame, And therefore must confess; Must call my doing by its name, And so make evil less.
"I could not his false triumph bear, For he was first in wrong." "Thy own ill-doings are thy care, His to himself belong."
"To do it right, my heart should own Some sorrow for the ill." "Plain, honest words will half atone, And they are in thy will."
The struggle comes. Evil or I Must gain the victory now. I am unmoved and yet would try: O God, to thee I bow.
The skies are brass; there falls no aid; No wind of help will blow. But I bethink me:—I am made A man: I rise and go.
To Christ I needs must come, they say; Who went to death for me: I turn aside; I come, I pray, My unknown God, to thee.
He is afar; the story old Is blotted, worn, and dim; With thee, O God, I can be bold— I cannot pray to him.
Pray! At the word a cloudy grief Around me folds its pall: Nothing I have to call belief! How can I pray at all?
I know not if a God be there To heed my crying sore; If in the great world anywhere An ear keeps open door!
An unborn faith I will not nurse, Pursue an endless task; Loud out into its universe My soul shall call and ask!
Is there no God—earth, sky, and sea Are but a chaos wild! Is there a God—I know that he Must hear his calling child!
I kneel. But all my soul is dumb With hopeless misery: Is he a friend who will not come, Whose face I must not see?
I do not think of broken laws, Of judge's damning word; My heart is all one ache, because I call and am not heard.
A cry where there is none to hear, Doubles the lonely pain; Returns in silence on the ear, In torture on the brain.
No look of love a smile can bring, No kiss wile back the breath To cold lips: I no answer wring From this great face of death.
Yet sometimes when the agony Dies of its own excess, A dew-like calm descends on me, A shadow of tenderness;
A sense of bounty and of grace, A cool air in my breast, As if my soul were yet a place Where peace might one day rest.
God! God! I say, and cry no more, But rise, and think to stand Unwearied at the closed door Till comes the opening hand.
But is it God?—Once more the fear Of No God loads my breath: Amid a sunless atmosphere I fight again with death.
Such rest may be like that which lulls The man who fainting lies: His bloodless brain his spirit dulls, Draws darkness o'er his eyes.
But even such sleep, my heart responds, May be the ancient rest Rising released from bodily bonds, And flowing unreprest.
The o'ertasked will falls down aghast In individual death; God puts aside the severed past, Breathes-in a primal breath.
For how should torture breed a calm? Can death to life give birth? No labour can create the balm That soothes the sleeping earth!
I yet will hope the very One Whose love is life in me, Did, when my strength was overdone, Inspire serenity.
When the hot sun's too urgent might Hath shrunk the tender leaf, Water comes sliding down the night, And makes its sorrow brief.
When poet's heart is in eclipse, A glance from childhood's eye, A smile from passing maiden's lips, Will clear a glowing sky.
Might not from God such influence come A dying hope to lift? Might he not send to poor heart some Unmediated gift?
My child lies moaning, lost in dreams, Abandoned, sore dismayed; Her fancy's world with horror teems, Her soul is much afraid:
I lay my hand upon her breast, Her moaning dies away; She does not wake, but, lost in rest, Sleeps on into the day.
And when my heart with soft release Grows calm as summer-sea, Shall I not hope the God of peace Hath laid his hand on me?
But why from thought should fresh doubt start— An ever-lengthening cord? Might he not make my troubled heart Right sure it was the Lord?
God will not let a smaller boon Hinder the coming best; A granted sign might all too soon Rejoice thee into rest.
Yet could not any sign, though grand As hosts of fire about, Though lovely as a sunset-land, Secure thy soul from doubt.
A smile from one thou lovedst well Gladdened thee all the day; The doubt which all day far did dwell Came home with twilight gray.
For doubt will come, will ever come, Though signs be perfect good, Till heart to heart strike doubting dumb, And both are understood.
I shall behold him, one day, nigh. Assailed with glory keen, My eyes will open wide, and I Shall see as I am seen.
Of nothing can my heart be sure Except the highest, best When God I see with vision pure, That sight will be my rest.
Forward I look with longing eye, And still my hope renew; Backward, and think that from the sky Did come that falling dew.
But if a vision should unfold That I might banish fear; That I, the chosen, might be bold, And walk with upright cheer;
My heart would cry: But shares my race In this great love of thine? I pray, put me not in good case Where others lack and pine.
Nor claim I thus a loving heart That for itself is mute: In such love I desire no part As reaches not my root.
But if my brothers thou dost call As children to thy knee, Thou givest me my being's all, Thou sayest child to me.
If thou to me alone shouldst give, My heart were all beguiled: It would not be because I live, And am my Father's child!
As little comfort would it bring, Amid a throng to pass; To stand with thousands worshipping Upon the sea of glass;
To know that, of a sinful world, I one was saved as well; My roll of ill with theirs upfurled, And cast in deepest hell;
That God looked bounteously on one, Because on many men; As shone Judea's earthly sun On all the healed ten.
No; thou must be a God to me As if but me were none; I such a perfect child to thee As if thou hadst but one.
Oh, then, my Father, hast thou not A blessing just for me? Shall I be, barely, not forgot?— Never come home to thee?
Hast thou no care for this one child, This thinking, living need? Or is thy countenance only mild, Thy heart not love indeed?
For some eternal joy I pray, To make me strong and free; Yea, such a friend I need alway As thou alone canst be.
Is not creative infinitude Able, in every man, To turn itself to every mood Since God man's life began?
Art thou not each man's God—his own, With secret words between, As thou and he lived all alone, Insphered in silence keen?
Ah, God, my heart is not the same As any heart beside; My pain is different, and my blame, My pity and my pride!
My history thou know'st, my thoughts Different from other men's; Thou knowest all the sheep and goats That mingle in my pens.
Thou knowest I a love might bring By none beside me due; One praiseful song at least might sing Which could not but be new.
Nor seek I thus to stand apart, In aught my kind above; My neighbour, ah, my troubled heart Must rest ere thee it love!
If God love not, I have no care, No power to love, no hope. What is life here or anywhere? Or why with darkness cope?
I scorn my own love's every sign, So feeble, selfish, low, If his love give no pledge that mine Shall one day perfect grow.
But if I knew Thy love even such, As tender and intense As, tested by its human touch, Would satisfy my sense
Of what a father never was But should be to his son, My heart would leap for joy, because My rescue was begun.
Oh then my love, by thine set free, Would overflow thy men; In every face my heart would see God shining out again!
There are who hold high festival And at the board crown Death: I am too weak to live at all Except I breathe thy breath.
Show me a love that nothing bates, Absolute, self-severe— Even at Gehenna's prayerless gates I should not "taint with fear."
I cannot brook that men should say— Nor this for gospel take— That thou wilt hear me if I pray Asking for Jesus' sake.
For love to him is not to me, And cannot lift my fate; The love is not that is not free, Perfect, immediate.
Love is salvation: life without No moment can endure. Those sheep alone go in and out Who know thy love is pure.
But what if God requires indeed, For cause yet unrevealed, Assent to one fixed form of creed, Such as I cannot yield?
Has God made for Christ's sake a test— To take or leave the crust, That only he may have the best Who licks the serpent-dust?
No, no; the words I will not say With the responding folk; I at his feet a heart would lay, Not shoulders for a yoke.
He were no lord of righteousness Who subjects such would gain As yield their birthright for a mess Of liberty from pain!
"And wilt thou bargain then with Him?" The priest makes answer high. 'Tis thou, priest, makest the sky dim: My hope is in the sky.
But is my will alive, awake? The one God will not heed If in my lips or hands I take A half-word or half-deed.
Hour after hour I sit and dream, Amazed in outwardness; The powers of things that only seem The things that are oppress;
Till in my soul some discord sounds, Till sinks some yawning lack; Then turn I from life's rippling rounds, And unto thee come back.
Thou seest how poor a thing am I, Yet hear, whate'er I be; Despairing of my will, I cry, Be God enough to me.
My spirit, low, irresolute, I cast before thy feet; And wait, while even prayer is mute, For what thou judgest meet.
My safety lies not, any hour, In what I generate, But in the living, healing power Of that which doth create.
If he is God to the incomplete, Fulfilling lack and need, Then I may cast before his feet A half-word or half-deed.
I bring, Lord, to thy altar-stair, To thee, love-glorious, My very lack of will and prayer, And cry—Thou seest me thus!
From some old well of life they flow! The words my being fill!— "Of me that man the truth shall know Who wills the Father's will."
What is his will?—that I may go And do it, in the hope That light will rise and spread and grow, As deed enlarges scope.
I need not search the sacred book To find my duty clear; Scarce in my bosom need I look, It lies so very near.
Henceforward I must watch the door Of word and action too; There's one thing I must do no more, Another I must do.
Alas, these are such little things! No glory in their birth! Doubt from their common aspect springs— If God will count them worth.
But here I am not left to choose, My duty is my lot; And weighty things will glory lose If small ones are forgot.
I am not worthy high things yet; I'll humbly do my own; Good care of sheep may so beget A fitness for the throne.
Ah fool! why dost thou reason thus? Ambition's very fool! Through high and low, each glorious, Shines God's all-perfect rule.
'Tis God I need, not rank in good: 'Tis Life, not honour's meed; With him to fill my every mood, I am content indeed.
Will do: shall know: I feel the force, The fullness of the word; His holy boldness held its course, Claiming divine accord.
What if, as yet, I have never seen The true face of the Man! The named notion may have been A likeness vague and wan;
A thing of such unblended hues As, on his chamber wall, The humble peasant gladly views, And Jesus Christ doth call.
The story I did never scan With vision calm and strong; Have never tried to see the Man, The many words among.
Pictures there are that do not please With any sweet surprise, But gain the heart by slow degrees Until they feast the eyes;
And if I ponder what they call The gospel of God's grace, Through mists that slowly melt and fall May dawn a human face.
What face? Oh, heart-uplifting thought, That face may dawn on me Which Moses on the mountain sought, God would not let him see!
All faint at first, as wrapt in veil Of Sinai's cloudy dark, But dawning as I read the tale, I slow discern and mark
A gracious, simple, truthful man, Who walks the earth erect, Nor stoops his noble head to one From fear or false respect;
Who seeks to climb no high estate, No low consent secure, With high and low serenely great, Because his love is pure.
Oh not alone, high o'er our reach, Our joys and griefs beyond! To him 'tis joy divine to teach Where human hearts respond;
And grief divine it was to him To see the souls that slept: "How often, O Jerusalem!" He said, and gazed, and wept.
Love was his very being's root, And healing was its flower; Love, human love, its stem and fruit, Its gladness and its power.
Life of high God, till then unseen! Undreamt-of glorious show! Glad, faithful, childlike, love-serene!— How poor am I! how low!
As in a living well I gaze, Kneeling upon its brink: What are the very words he says? What did the one man think?
I find his heart was all above; Obedience his one thought; Reposing in his father's love, His father's will he sought.
* * * * *
Years have passed o'er my broken plan To picture out a strife, Where ancient Death, in horror wan, Faced young and fearing Life.
More of the tale I tell not so— But for myself would say: My heart is quiet with what I know, With what I hope, is gay.
And where I cannot set my faith, Unknowing or unwise, I say "If this be what he saith, Here hidden treasure lies."
Through years gone by since thus I strove, Thus shadowed out my strife, While at my history I wove, Thou wovest in the life.
Through poverty that had no lack For friends divinely good; Through pain that not too long did rack, Through love that understood;
Through light that taught me what to hold And what to cast away; Through thy forgiveness manifold, And things I cannot say,
Here thou hast brought me—able now To kiss thy garment's hem, Entirely to thy will to bow, And trust thee even for them
Who in the darkness and the mire Walk with rebellious feet, Loose trailing, Lo, their soiled attire For heavenly floor unmeet!
Lord Jesus Christ, I know not how— With this blue air, blue sea, This yellow sand, that grassy brow, All isolating me—
Thy thoughts to mine themselves impart, My thoughts to thine draw near; But thou canst fill who mad'st my heart, Who gav'st me words must hear.
Thou mad'st the hand with which I write, The eye that watches slow Through rosy gates that rosy light Across thy threshold go;
Those waves that bend in golden spray, As if thy foot they bore: I think I know thee, Lord, to-day, Shall know thee evermore.
I know thy father thine and mine: Thou the great fact hast bared: Master, the mighty words are thine— Such I had never dared!
Lord, thou hast much to make me yet— Thy father's infant still: Thy mind, Son, in my bosom set, That I may grow thy will.
My soul with truth clothe all about, And I shall question free: The man that feareth, Lord, to doubt, In that fear doubteth thee.
THE GOSPEL WOMEN.
THE MOTHER MARY.
Mary, to thee the heart was given For infant hand to hold, And clasp thus, an eternal heaven, The great earth in its fold.
He seized the world with tender might By making thee his own; Thee, lowly queen, whose heavenly height Was to thyself unknown.
He came, all helpless, to thy power, For warmth, and love, and birth; In thy embraces, every hour, He grew into the earth.
Thine was the grief, O mother high, Which all thy sisters share Who keep the gate betwixt the sky And this our lower air;
But unshared sorrows, gathering slow, Will rise within thy heart, Strange thoughts which like a sword will go Thorough thy inward part.
For, if a woman bore a son That was of angel brood, Who lifted wings ere day was done, And soared from where she stood,
Wild grief would rave on love's high throne; She, sitting in the door, All day would cry: "He was my own, And now is mine no more!"
So thou, O Mary, years on years, From child-birth to the cross, Wast filled with yearnings, filled with fears, Keen sense of love and loss.
His childish thoughts outsoared thy reach; His godlike tenderness Would sometimes seem, in human speech, To thee than human less.
Strange pangs await thee, mother mild, A sorer travail-pain; Then will the spirit of thy child Be born in thee again.
Till then thou wilt forebode and dread; Loss will be still thy fear— Till he be gone, and, in his stead, His very self appear.
For, when thy son hath reached his goal, And vanished from the earth, Soon wilt thou find him in thy soul, A second, holier birth.
Ah, there he stands! With wondering face Old men surround the boy; The solemn looks, the awful place Bestill the mother's joy.
In sweet reproach her gladness hid, Her trembling voice says—low, Less like the chiding than the chid— "How couldst thou leave us so?"
But will her dear heart understand The answer that he gives— Childlike, eternal, simple, grand, The law by which he lives?
"Why sought ye me?" Ah, mother dear, The gulf already opes That will in thee keep live the fear, And part thee from thy hopes!
"My father's business—that ye know I cannot choose but do." Mother, if he that work forego, Not long he cares for you.
Creation's harder, better part Now occupies his hand: I marvel not the mother's heart Not yet could understand.
The Lord of life among them rests; They quaff the merry wine; They do not know, those wedding guests, The present power divine.
Believe, on such a group he smiled, Though he might sigh the while; Believe not, sweet-souled Mary's child Was born without a smile.
He saw the pitchers, high upturned, Their last red drops outpour; His mother's cheek with triumph burned, And expectation wore.
He knew the prayer her bosom housed, He read it in her eyes; Her hopes in him sad thoughts have roused Ere yet her words arise.
"They have no wine!" she, halting, said, Her prayer but half begun; Her eyes went on, "Lift up thy head, Show what thou art, my son!"
A vision rose before his eyes, The cross, the waiting tomb, The people's rage, the darkened skies, His unavoided doom:
Ah woman dear, thou must not fret Thy heart's desire to see! His hour of honour is not yet— 'Twill come too soon for thee!
His word was dark; his tone was kind; His heart the mother knew; His eyes in hers looked deep, and shined; They gave her heart the cue.
Another, on the word intent, Had read refusal there; She heard in it a full consent, A sweetly answered prayer.
"Whate'er he saith unto you, do." Out flowed his grapes divine; Though then, as now, not many knew Who makes the water wine.
"He is beside himself!" Dismayed, His mother, brothers talked: He from the well-known path had strayed In which their fathers walked!
With troubled hearts they sought him. Loud Some one the message bore:— He stands within, amid a crowd, They at the open door:—
"Thy mother and thy brothers would Speak with thee. Lo, they stand Without and wait thee!" Like a flood Of sunrise on the land,
A new-born light his face o'erspread; Out from his eyes it poured; He lifted up that gracious head, Looked round him, took the word:
"My mother—brothers—who are they?" Hearest thou, Mary mild? This is a sword that well may slay— Disowned by thy child!
Ah, no! My brothers, sisters, hear— They are our humble lord's! O mother, did they wound thy ear?— We thank him for the words.
"Who are my friends?" Oh, hear him say, Stretching his hand abroad, "My mother, sisters, brothers, are they That do the will of God!"
My brother! Lord of life and me, If life might grow to this!— Would it not, brother, sister, be Enough for all amiss?
Yea, mother, hear him and rejoice: Thou art his mother still, But may'st be more—of thy own choice Doing his Father's will.
Ambition for thy son restrain, Thy will to God's will bow: Thy son he shall be yet again. And twice his mother thou.
O humble man, O faithful son! That woman most forlorn Who yet thy father's will hath done, Thee, son of man, hath born!
Life's best things gather round its close To light it from the door; When woman's aid no further goes, She weeps and loves the more.
She doubted oft, feared for his life, Yea, feared his mission's loss; But now she shares the losing strife, And weeps beside the cross.
The dreaded hour is come at last, The sword hath reached her soul; The hour of tortured hope is past, And gained the awful goal.
There hangs the son her body bore, The limbs her arms had prest! The hands, the feet the driven nails tore Had lain upon her breast!
He speaks; the words how faintly brief, And how divinely dear! The mother's heart yearns through its grief Her dying son to hear.
"Woman, behold thy son.—Behold Thy mother." Blessed hest That friend to her torn heart to fold Who understood him best!
Another son—ah, not instead!— He gave, lest grief should kill, While he was down among the dead, Doing his father's will.
No, not instead! the coming joy Will make him hers anew; More hers than when, a little boy, His life from hers he drew.
THE WOMAN THAT LIFTED UP HER VOICE.
Filled with his words of truth and right, Her heart will break or cry: A woman's cry bursts forth in might Of loving agony.
"Blessed the womb, thee, Lord, that bare! The bosom that thee fed!" A moment's silence filled the air, All heard the words she said.
He turns his face: he knows the cry, The fountain whence it springs— A woman's heart that glad would die For woman's best of things.
Good thoughts, though laggard in the rear, He never quenched or chode: "Yea, rather, blessed they that hear And keep the word of God!"
He would uplift her, not rebuke. The crowd began to stir. We miss how she the answer took; We hear no more of her.
THE MOTHER OF ZEBEDEE'S CHILDREN.
She knelt, she bore a bold request, Though shy to speak it out: Ambition, even in mother's breast, Before him stood in doubt.
"What is it?" "Grant thy promise now, My sons on thy right hand And on thy left shall sit when thou Art king, Lord, in the land."
"Ye know not what ye ask." There lay A baptism and a cup She understood not, in the way By which he must go up.
Her mother-love would lift them high Above their fellow-men; Her woman-pride would, standing nigh, Share in their grandeur then!
Would she have joyed o'er prosperous quest, Counted her prayer well heard, Had they, of three on Calvary's crest, Hung dying, first and third?
She knoweth neither way nor end: In dark despair, full soon, She will not mock the gracious friend With prayer for any boon.
Higher than love could dream or dare To ask, he them will set; They shall his cup and baptism share, And share his kingdom yet!
They, entering at his palace-door, Will shun the lofty seat; Will gird themselves, and water pour, And wash each other's feet;
Then down beside their lowly Lord On the Father's throne shall sit: For them who godlike help afford God hath prepared it.
THE SYROPHENICIAN WOMAN.
"Grant, Lord, her prayer, and let her go; She crieth after us." Nay, to the dogs ye cast it so; Serve not a woman thus.
Their pride, by condescension fed, He shapes with teaching tongue: "It is not meet the children's bread To little dogs be flung."
The words, for tender heart so sore, His voice did seem to rue; The gentle wrath his countenance wore, With her had not to do.
He makes her share the hurt of good, Takes what she would have lent, That those proud men their evil mood May see, and so repent;
And that the hidden faith in her May burst in soaring flame: With childhood deeper, holier, Is birthright not the same?
Ill names, of proud religion born— She'll wear the worst that comes; Will clothe her, patient, in their scorn, To share the healing crumbs!
"Truth, Lord; and yet the puppies small Under the table eat The crumbs the little ones let fall— That is not thought unmeet."
The prayer rebuff could not amate Was not like water spilt: "O woman, but thy faith is great! Be it even as thou wilt."
Thrice happy she who yet will dare, Who, baffled, prayeth still! He, if he may, will grant her prayer In fulness of her will!
THE WIDOW OF NAIN.
Forth from the city, with the load That makes the trampling low, They walk along the dreary road That dust and ashes go.
The other way, toward the gate Their trampling strong and loud, With hope of liberty elate, Comes on another crowd.
Nearer and nearer draw the twain— One with a wailing cry! How could the Life let such a train Of death and tears go by!
"Weep not," he said, and touched the bier: They stand, the dead who bear; The mother knows nor hope nor fear— He waits not for her prayer.
"Young man, I say to thee, arise." Who hears, he must obey: Up starts the body; wide the eyes Flash wonder and dismay.
The lips would speak, as if they caught Some converse sudden broke When the great word the dead man sought, And Hades' silence woke.
The lips would speak: the eyes' wild stare Gives place to ordered sight; The murmur dies upon the air; The soul is dumb with light.
He brings no news; he has forgot, Or saw with vision weak: Thou sees! all our unseen lot, And yet thou dost not speak.
Hold'st thou the news, as parent might A too good gift, away, Lest we should neither sleep at night, Nor do our work by day?
The mother leaves us not a spark Of her triumph over grief; Her tears alone have left their mark Upon the holy leaf:
Oft gratitude will thanks benumb, Joy will our laughter quell: May not Eternity be dumb With things too good to tell?
Her straining arms her lost one hold; Question she asketh none; She trusts for all he leaves untold; Enough, to clasp her son!
The ebb is checked, the flow begun, Sent rushing to the gate: Death turns him backward to the sun, And life is yet our fate!
THE WOMAN WHOM SATAN HAD BOUND.
For years eighteen she, patient soul, Her eyes had graveward sent; Her earthly life was lapt in dole, She was so bowed and bent.
What words! To her? Who can be near? What tenderness of hands! Oh! is it strength, or fancy mere? New hope, or breaking bands?
The pent life rushes swift along Channels it used to know; Up, up, amid the wondering throng, She rises firm and slow—
To bend again in grateful awe— For will is power at length— In homage to the living Law Who gives her back her strength.
Uplifter of the down-bent head! Unbinder of the bound! Who seest all the burdened Who only see the ground!
Although they see thee not, nor cry, Thou watchest for the hour To lift the forward-beaming eye, To wake the slumbering power!
Thy hand will wipe the stains of time From off the withered face; Upraise thy bowed old men, in prime Of youthful manhood's grace!
Like summer days from winter's tomb, Shall rise thy women fair; Gray Death, a shadow, not a doom, Lo, is not anywhere!
All ills of life shall melt away As melts a cureless woe, When, by the dawning of the day Surprised, the dream must go.
I think thou, Lord, wilt heal me too, Whate'er the needful cure; The great best only thou wilt do, And hoping I endure.
THE WOMAN WHO CAME BEHIND HIM IN THE CROWD.
Near him she stole, rank after rank; She feared approach too loud; She touched his garment's hem, and shrank Back in the sheltering crowd.
A shame-faced gladness thrills her frame: Her twelve years' fainting prayer Is heard at last! she is the same As other women there!
She hears his voice. He looks about. Ah! is it kind or good To drag her secret sorrow out Before that multitude?
The eyes of men she dares not meet— On her they straight must fall!— Forward she sped, and at his feet Fell down, and told him all.
To the one refuge she hath flown, The Godhead's burning flame! Of all earth's women she alone Hears there the tenderest name:
"Daughter," he said, "be of good cheer; Thy faith hath made thee whole:" With plenteous love, not healing mere, He comforteth her soul.
THE WIDOW WITH THE TWO MITES.
Here much and little shift and change, With scale of need and time; There more and less have meanings strange, Which the world cannot rime.
Sickness may be more hale than health, And service kingdom high; Yea, poverty be bounty's wealth, To give like God thereby.
Bring forth your riches; let them go, Nor mourn the lost control; For if ye hoard them, surely so Their rust will reach your soul.
Cast in your coins, for God delights When from wide hands they fall; But here is one who brings two mites, And thus gives more than all.
I think she did not hear the praise— Went home content with need; Walked in her old poor generous ways, Nor knew her heavenly meed.
THE WOMEN WHO MINISTERED UNTO HIM.
Enough he labours for his hire; Yea, nought can pay his pain; But powers that wear and waste and tire, Need help to toil again.
They give him freely all they can, They give him clothes and food; In this rejoicing, that the man Is not ashamed they should.
High love takes form in lowly thing; He knows the offering such; To them 'tis little that they bring, To him 'tis very much.
Why came in dreams the low-born man Between thee and thy rest? In vain thy whispered message ran, Though justice was its quest!
Did some young ignorant angel dare— Not knowing what must be, Or blind with agony of care— To fly for help to thee?
I know not. Rather I believe, Thou, nobler than thy spouse, His rumoured grandeur didst receive, And sit with pondering brows,
Until thy maidens' gathered tale With possible marvel teems: Thou sleepest, and the prisoner pale Returneth in thy dreams.
Well mightst thou suffer things not few For his sake all the night! In pale eclipse he suffers, who Is of the world the light.
Precious it were to know thy dream Of such a one as he! Perhaps of him we, waking, deem As poor a verity.
THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA.
In the hot sun, for water cool She walked in listless mood: When back she ran, her pitcher full Forgot behind her stood.
Like one who followed straying sheep, A weary man she saw, Who sat upon the well so deep, And nothing had to draw.
"Give me to drink," he said. Her hand Was ready with reply; From out the old well of the land She drew him plenteously.
He spake as never man before; She stands with open ears; He spake of holy days in store, Laid bare the vanished years.
She cannot still her throbbing heart, She hurries to the town, And cries aloud in street and mart, "The Lord is here: come down."
Her life before was strange and sad, A very dreary sound: Ah, let it go—or good or bad: She has the Master found!
With wandering eyes and aimless zeal, She hither, thither, goes; Her speech, her motions, all reveal A mind without repose.
She climbs the hills, she haunts the sea, By madness tortured, driven; One hour's forgetfulness would be A gift from very heaven!
She slumbers into new distress; The night is worse than day: Exulting in her helplessness, Hell's dogs yet louder bay.
The demons blast her to and fro; She has no quiet place, Enough a woman still, to know A haunting dim disgrace.
A human touch! a pang of death! And in a low delight Thou liest, waiting for new breath. For morning out of night.
Thou risest up: the earth is fair, The wind is cool; thou art free! Is it a dream of hell's despair Dissolves in ecstasy?
That man did touch thee! Eyes divine Make sunrise in thy soul; Thou seest love in order shine:— His health hath made thee whole!
Thou, sharing in the awful doom, Didst help thy Lord to die; Then, weeping o'er his empty tomb, Didst hear him Mary cry.
He stands in haste; he cannot stop; Home to his God he fares: "Go tell my brothers I go up To my Father, mine and theirs."
Run, Mary! lift thy heavenly voice; Cry, cry, and heed not how; Make all the new-risen world rejoice— Its first apostle thou!
What if old tales of thee have lied, Or truth have told, thou art All-safe with him, whate'er betide— Dwell'st with him in God's heart!
THE WOMAN IN THE TEMPLE.
A still dark joy! A sudden face! Cold daylight, footsteps, cries! The temple's naked, shining space, Aglare with judging eyes!
All in abandoned guilty hair, With terror-pallid lips, To vulgar scorn her honour bare, To lewd remarks and quips,
Her eyes she fixes on the ground Her shrinking soul to hide, Lest, at uncurtained windows found, Its shame be clear descried.
All idle hang her listless hands, They tingle with her shame; She sees not who beside her stands, She is so bowed with blame.
He stoops, he writes upon the ground, Regards nor priests nor wife; An awful silence spreads around, And wakes an inward strife.
Then comes a voice that speaks for thee, Pale woman, sore aghast: "Let him who from this sin is free At her the first stone cast!"
Ah then her heart grew slowly sad! Her eyes bewildered rose; She saw the one true friend she had, Who loves her though he knows.
He stoops. In every charnel breast Dead conscience rises slow: They, dumb before that awful guest, Turn, one by one, and go.
Up in her deathlike, ashy face Rises the living red; No greater wonder sure had place When Lazarus left the dead!
She is alone with him whose fear Made silence all around; False pride, false shame, they come not near, She has her saviour found!
Jesus hath spoken on her side, Those cruel men withstood! From him her shame she will not hide! For him she will be good!
He rose; he saw the temple bare; They two are left alone! He said unto her, "Woman, where Are thine accusers gone?"
"Hath none condemned thee?" "Master, no," She answers, trembling sore. "Neither do I condemn thee. Go, And sin not any more."
She turned and went.—To hope and grieve? Be what she had not been? We are not told; but I believe His kindness made her clean.
Our sins to thee us captive hale— Ambitions, hatreds dire; Cares, fears, and selfish loves that fail, And sink us in the mire:
Our captive-cries with pardon meet; Our passion cleanse with pain; Lord, thou didst make these miry feet— Oh, wash them clean again!
With joyful pride her heart is high: Her humble house doth hold The man her nation's prophecy Long ages hath foretold!
Poor, is he? Yes, and lowly born: Her woman-soul is proud To know and hail the coming morn Before the eyeless crowd.
At her poor table will he eat? He shall be served there With honour and devotion meet For any king that were!
'Tis all she can; she does her part, Profuse in sacrifice; Nor dreams that in her unknown heart A better offering lies.
But many crosses she must bear; Her plans are turned and bent; Do what she can, things will not wear The form of her intent.
With idle hands and drooping lid, See Mary sit at rest! Shameful it was her sister did No service for their guest!
Dear Martha, one day Mary's lot Must rule thy hands and eyes; Thou, all thy household cares forgot, Must sit as idly wise!
But once more first she set her word To bar her master's ways, Crying, "By this he stinketh, Lord, He hath been dead four days!"
Her housewife-soul her brother dear Would fetter where he lies! Ah, did her buried best then hear, And with the dead man rise?
She sitteth at the Master's feet In motionless employ; Her ears, her heart, her soul complete Drinks in the tide of joy.
Ah! who but she the glory knows Of life, pure, high, intense, In whose eternal silence blows The wind beyond the sense!
In her still ear, God's perfect grace Incarnate is in voice; Her thoughts, the people of the place, Receive it, and rejoice.
Her eyes, with heavenly reason bright, Are on the ground cast low; His words of spirit, life, and light— They set them shining so.
But see! a face is at the door Whose eyes are not at rest; A voice breaks on divinest lore With petulant request.
"Master," it said, "dost thou not care She lets me serve alone? Tell her to come and take her share." But Mary's eyes shine on.
She lifts them with a questioning glance, Calmly to him who heard; The merest sign, she'll rise at once, Nor wait the uttered word.
His "Martha, Martha!" with it bore A sense of coming nay; He told her that her trouble sore Was needless any day.
And he would not have Mary chid For want of needless care; The needful thing was what she did, At his feet sitting there.
Sure, joy awoke in her dear heart Doing the thing it would, When he, the holy, took her part, And called her choice the good!
Oh needful thing, Oh Mary's choice, Go not from us away! Oh Jesus, with the living voice, Talk to us every day!
Not now the living words are poured Into one listening ear; For many guests are at the board, And many speak and hear.
With sacred foot, refrained and slow, With daring, trembling tread, She comes, in worship bending low Behind the godlike head.
The costly chrism, in snowy stone, A gracious odour sends; Her little hoard, by sparing grown, In one full act she spends.
She breaks the box, the honoured thing! See how its riches pour! Her priestly hands anoint him king Whom peasant Mary bore.
* * * * *
Not so does John the tale repeat: He saw, for he was there, Mary anoint the Master's feet, And wipe them with her hair.
Perhaps she did his head anoint, And then his feet as well; And John this one forgotten point Loved best of all to tell.
'Twas Judas called the splendour waste, 'Twas Jesus said—Not so; Said that her love his burial graced: "Ye have the poor; I go."
Her hands unwares outsped his fate, The truth-king's felon-doom; The other women were too late, For he had left the tomb.
THE WOMAN THAT WAS A SINNER.
His face, his words, her heart awoke; Awoke her slumbering truth; She judged him well; her bonds she broke, And fled to him for ruth.
With tears she washed his weary feet; She wiped them with her hair; Her kisses—call them not unmeet, When they were welcome there.
What saint a richer crown could throw At his love-royal feet! Her tears, her lips, her hair, down go, His reign begun to greet.
His holy manhood's perfect worth Owns her a woman still; It is impossible henceforth For her to stoop to ill.
Her to herself his words restore, The radiance to the day; A horror to herself no more, Not yet a cast-away!
Her hands and kisses, ointment, tears, Her gathered wiping hair, Her love, her shame, her hopes, her fears, Mingle in worship rare.
Thou, Mary, too, thy hair didst spread To wipe the anointed feet; Nor didst thou only bless his head With precious spikenard sweet.
But none say thou thy tears didst pour To wash his parched feet first; Of tears thou couldst not have such store As from this woman burst!
If not in love she first be read, Her queen of sorrow greet; Mary, do thou anoint his head, And let her crown his feet.
Simon, her kisses will not soil; Her tears are pure as rain; The hair for him she did uncoil Had been baptized in pain.
Lo, God hath pardoned her so much, Love all her being stirs! His love to his poor child is such That it hath wakened hers!
But oh, rejoice, ye sisters pure, Who scarce can know her case— There is no sin but has its cure, Its all-consuming grace!
He did not leave her soul in hell, 'Mong shards the silver dove; But raised her pure that she might tell Her sisters how to love!
She gave him all your best love can! Despised, rejected, sad— Sure, never yet had mighty man Such homage as he had!
Jesus, by whose forgiveness sweet, Her love grew so intense, Earth's sinners all come round thy feet: Lord, make no difference!
A BOOK OF SONNETS.
Thrice-happy he whose heart, each new-born night, When old-worn day hath vanished o'er earth's brim, And he hath laid him down in chamber dim, Straightway begins to tremble and grow bright, And loose faint flashes toward the vaulted height Of the great peace that overshadoweth him: Keen lambent flames of hope awake and swim Throughout his soul, touching each point with light! The great earth under him an altar is, Upon whose top a sacrifice he lies, Burning in love's response up to the skies Whose fire descended first and kindled his: When slow the flickering flames at length expire, Sleep's ashes only hide a glowing fire.
THE UNSEEN FACE.
"I do beseech thee, God, show me thy face." "Come up to me in Sinai on the morn! Thou shall behold as much as may be borne." And on a rock stood Moses, lone in space. From Sinai's top, the vaporous, thunderous place, God passed in cloud, an earthy garment worn To hide, and thus reveal. In love, not scorn, He put him in a clift of the rock's base, Covered him with his hand, his eyes to screen— Passed—lifted it: his back alone appears! Ah, Moses, had he turned, and hadst thou seen The pale face crowned with thorns, baptized with tears, The eyes of the true man, by men belied, Thou hadst beheld God's face, and straightway died!
If thou hadst been a sculptor, what a race Of forms divine had thenceforth filled the land! Methinks I see thee, glorious workman, stand, Striking a marble window through blind space— Thy face's reflex on the coming face, As dawns the stone to statue 'neath thy hand— Body obedient to its soul's command, Which is thy thought, informing it with grace! So had it been. But God, who quickeneth clay, Nor turneth it to marble—maketh eyes, Not shadowy hollows, where no sunbeams play— Would mould his loftiest thought in human guise: Thou didst appear, walking unknown abroad, God's living sculpture, all-informed of God.
If one should say, "Lo, there thy statue! take Possession, sculptor; now inherit it; Go forth upon the earth in likeness fit; As with a trumpet-cry at morning, wake The sleeping nations; with light's terror, shake The slumber from their hearts, that, where they sit, They leap straight up, aghast, as at a pit Gaping beneath;" I hear him answer make: "Alas for me, I cannot nor would dare Inform what I revered as I did trace! Who would be fool that he like fool might fare, With feeble spirit mocking the enorm Strength on his forehead!" Thou, God's thought thy form, Didst live the large significance of thy face.
Men have I seen, and seen with wonderment, Noble in form, "lift upward and divine," In whom I yet must search, as in a mine, After that soul of theirs, by which they went Alive upon the earth. And I have bent Regard on many a woman, who gave sign God willed her beautiful, when he drew the line That shaped each float and fold of beauty's tent: Her soul, alas, chambered in pigmy space, Left the fair visage pitiful—inane— Poor signal only of a coming face When from the penetrale she filled the fane!— Possessed of thee was every form of thine, Thy very hair replete with the divine.
If thou hadst built a temple, how my eye Had hungering fed thereon, from low-browed crypt Up to the soaring pinnacles that, tipt With stars, gave signal when the sun drew nigh! Dark caverns in and under; vivid sky Its home and aim! Say, from the glory slipt, And down into the shadows dropt and dipt, Or reared from darkness up so holy-high?— Thou build'st the temple of thy holy ghost From hid foundation to high-hidden fate— Foot in the grave, head at the heavenly gate, From grave and sky filled with a fighting host! Man is thy temple; man thy work elect; His glooms and glory thine, great architect!
If thou hadst been a painter, what fresh looks, What outbursts of pent glories, what new grace Had shone upon us from the great world's face! How had we read, as in eternal books, The love of God in loneliest shiest nooks! A lily, in merest lines thy hand did trace, Had plainly been God's child of lower race! And oh how strong the hills, songful the brooks! To thee all nature's meanings lie light-bare, Because thy heart is nature's inner side; Clear as, to us, earth on the dawn's gold tide, Her notion vast up in thy soul did rise; Thine is the world, thine all its splendours rare, Thou Man ideal, with the unsleeping eyes!
But I have seen pictures the work of man, In which at first appeared but chaos wild: So high the art transcended, they beguiled The eye as formless, and without a plan. Not soon, the spirit, brooding o'er, began To see a purpose rise, like mountain isled, When God said, Let the Dry appear! and, piled Above the waves, it rose in twilight wan. So might thy pictures then have been too strange For us to pierce beyond their outmost look; A vapour and a darkness; a sealed book; An atmosphere too high for wings to range; And so we could but, gazing, pale and change, And tremble as at a void thought cannot brook.
But earth is now thy living picture, where Thou shadowest truth, the simple and profound By the same form in vital union bound: Where one can see but the first step of thy stair, Another sees it vanish far in air. When thy king David viewed the starry round, From heart and fingers broke the psaltery-sound: Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst mind his prayer! But when the child beholds the heavens on high, He babbles childish noises—not less dear Than what the king sang praying—to the ear Of him who made the child and king and sky. Earth is thy picture, painter great, whose eye Sees with the child, sees with the kingly seer.
If thou hadst built some mighty instrument, And set thee down to utter ordered sound, Whose faithful billows, from thy hands unbound, Breaking in light, against our spirits went, And caught, and bore above this earthly tent, The far-strayed back to their prime natal ground, Where all roots fast in harmony are found, And God sits thinking out a pure consent;— Nay, that thou couldst not; that was not for thee! Our broken music thou must first restore— A harder task than think thine own out free; And till thou hast done it, no divinest score, Though rendered by thine own angelic choir, Can lift one human spirit from the mire.
If thou hadst been a poet! On my heart The thought flashed sudden, burning through the weft Of life, and with too much I sank bereft. Up to my eyes the tears, with sudden start, Thronged blinding: then the veil would rend and part! The husk of vision would in twain be cleft! Thy hidden soul in naked beauty left, I should behold thee, Nature, as thou art! O poet Jesus! at thy holy feet I should have lien, sainted with listening; My pulses answering ever, in rhythmic beat, The stroke of each triumphant melody's wing, Creating, as it moved, my being sweet; My soul thy harp, thy word the quivering string.
Thee had we followed through the twilight land Where thought grows form, and matter is refined Back into thought of the eternal mind, Till, seeing them one, Lo, in the morn we stand!— Then started fresh and followed, hand in hand, With sense divinely growing, till, combined, We heard the music of the planets wind In harmony with billows on the strand!— Till, one with earth and all God's utterance, We hardly knew whether the sun outspake, Or a glad sunshine from our spirits brake— Whether we think, or winds and blossoms dance! Alas, O poet leader, for such good Thou wast God's tragedy, writ in tears and blood!
Hadst thou been one of these, in many eyes, Too near to be a glory for thy sheen, Thou hadst been scorned; and to the best hadst been A setter forth of strange divinities; But to the few construct of harmonies, A sudden sun, uplighting the serene High heaven of love; and, through the cloudy screen That 'twixt our souls and truth all wretched lies, Dawning at length, hadst been a love and fear, Worshipped on high from Magian's mountain-crest, And all night long symbolled by lamp-flames clear, Thy sign, a star upon thy people's breast— Where that strange arbitrary token lies Which once did scare the sun in noontide skies.
But as thou camest forth to bring the poor, Whose hearts are nearer faith and verity, Spiritual childhood, thy philosophy— So taught'st the A B C of heavenly lore; Because thou sat'st not lonely evermore, With mighty truths informing language high, But, walking in thy poem continually, Didst utter deeds, of all true forms the core— Poet and poem one indivisible fact; Because thou didst thine own ideal act, And so, for parchment, on the human soul Didst write thine aspirations—at thy goal Thou didst arrive with curses for acclaim, And cry to God up through a cloud of shame.
For three and thirty years, a living seed, A lonely germ, dropt on our waste world's side, Thy death and rising thou didst calmly bide; Sore companied by many a clinging weed Sprung from the fallow soil of evil and need; Hither and thither tossed, by friends denied; Pitied of goodness dull, and scorned of pride; Until at length was done the awful deed, And thou didst lie outworn in stony bower Three days asleep—oh, slumber godlike-brief For man of sorrows and acquaint with grief! Life-seed thou diedst, that Death might lose his power, And thou, with rooted stem and shadowy leaf, Rise, of humanity the crimson flower.
Where dim the ethereal eye, no art, though clear As golden star in morning's amber springs, Can pierce the fogs of low imaginings: Painting and sculpture are a mockery mere. Where dull to deafness is the hearing ear, Vain is the poet. Nought but earthly things Have credence. When the soaring skylark sings How shall the stony statue strain to hear? Open the deaf ear, wake the sleeping eye, And Lo, musicians, painters, poets—all Trooping instinctive, come without a call! As winds that where they list blow evermore; As waves from silent deserts roll to die In mighty voices on the peopled shore.
Our ears thou openedst; mad'st our eyes to see. All they who work in stone or colour fair, Or build up temples of the quarried air, Which we call music, scholars are of thee. Henceforth in might of such, the earth shall be Truth's temple-theatre, where she shall wear All forms of revelation, all men bear Tapers in acolyte humility. O master-maker, thy exultant art Goes forth in making makers! Pictures? No, But painters, who in love and truth shall show Glad secrets from thy God's rejoicing heart. Sudden, green grass and waving corn up start When through dead sands thy living waters go.
From the beginning good and fair are one, But men the beauty from the truth will part, And, though the truth is ever beauty's heart, After the beauty will, short-breathed, run, And the indwelling truth deny and shun. Therefore, in cottage, synagogue, and mart, Thy thoughts came forth in common speech, not art; With voice and eye, in Jewish Babylon, Thou taughtest—not with pen or carved stone, Nor in thy hand the trembling wires didst take: Thou of the truth not less than all wouldst make; For Truth's sake even her forms thou didst disown: Ere, through the love of beauty, truth shall fail, The light behind shall burn the broidered veil!
Holy of holies, my bare feet draw nigh: Jesus, thy body is the shining veil By which I look on God, nor grow death-pale. I know that in my verses poor may lie Things low, for see, the thinker is not high! But were my song as loud as saints' all-hail, As pure as prophet's cry of warning wail, As holy as thy mother's ecstasy— He sings a better, who, for love or ruth, Into his heart a little child doth take. Nor thoughts nor feelings, art nor wisdom seal The man who at thy table bread shall break. Thy praise was not that thou didst know, or feel, Or show, or love, but that thou didst the truth.
Despised! Rejected by the priest-led roar Of the multitude! The imperial purple flung About the form the hissing scourge had stung, Witnessing naked to the truth it bore! True son of father true, I thee adore. Even the mocking purple truthful hung On thy true shoulders, bleeding its folds among, For thou wast king, art king for evermore! I know the Father: he knows me the truth. Truth-witness, therefore the one essential king, With thee I die, with thee live worshipping! O human God, O brother, eldest born, Never but thee was there a man in sooth, Never a true crown but thy crown of thorn!
A MEMORIAL OF AFRICA.
Upon a rock I sat—a mountain-side, Far, far forsaken of the old sea's lip; A rock where ancient waters' rise and dip, Recoil and plunge, eddy, and oscillant tide, Had worn and worn, while races lived and died, Involved channels. Where the sea-weed's drip Followed the ebb, now crumbling lichens sip Sparse dews of heaven that down with sunset slide. I sat long-gazing southward. A dry flow Of withering wind sucked up my drooping strength, Itself weak from the desert's burning length. Behind me piled, away and up did go Great sweeps of savage mountains—up, away, Where snow gleams ever, panthers roam, they say.
This infant world has taken long to make, Nor hast Thou done with it, but mak'st it yet, And wilt be working on when death has set A new mound in some churchyard for my sake. On flow the centuries without a break; Uprise the mountains, ages without let; The lichens suck; the hard rock's breast they fret; Years more than past, the young earth yet will take. But in the dumbness of the rolling time, No veil of silence shall encompass me— Thou wilt not once forget and let me be; Rather wouldst thou some old chaotic prime Invade, and, moved by tenderness sublime, Unfold a world, that I, thy child, might see.
A. M. D.
Methinks I see thee, lying straight and low, Silent and darkling, in thy earthy bed, The mighty strength in which I trusted, fled, The long arms lying careless of kiss or blow; On thy tall form I see the night-robe flow Down from the pale, composed face—thy head Crowned with its own dark curls: though thou wast dead, They dressed thee as for sleep, and left thee so! My heart, with cares and questionings oppressed, Not oft since thou didst leave us turns to thee; But wait, my brother, till I too am dead, And thou shalt find that heart more true, more free, More ready in thy love to take its rest, Than when we lay together in one bed.
TO GARIBALDI—WITH A BOOK.
When at Philippi, he who would have freed Great Rome from tyrants, for the season brief That lay 'twixt him and battle, sought relief From painful thoughts, he in a book did read, That so the death of Portia might not breed Unmanful thoughts, and cloud his mind with grief: Brother of Brutus, of high hearts the chief, When thou at length receiv'st thy heavenly meed, And I have found my hoping not in vain, Tell me my book has wiled away one pang That out of some lone sacred memory sprang, Or wrought an hour's forgetfulness of pain, And I shall rise, my heart brimful of gain, And thank my God amid the golden clang.
TO S. F. S.
They say that lonely sorrows do not chance: More gently, I think, sorrows together go; A new one joins the funeral gliding slow With less of jar than when it breaks the dance. Grief swages grief, and joy doth joy enhance; Nature is generous to her children so. And were they quick to spy the flowers that blow, As quick to feel the sharp-edged stones that lance The foot that must walk naked in life's way,— Blest by the roadside lily, free from fear, Oftener than hurt by dash of flinty spear, They would walk upright, bold, and earnest-gay; And when the soft night closed the weary day, Would sleep like those that far-off music hear.
In that high country whither thou art gone, Right noble friend, thou walkest with thy peers, The gathered great of many a hundred years! Few are left like thee—few, I say, not none, Else were thy England soon a Babylon, A land of outcry, mockery, and tears! Higher than law, a refuge from its fears, Wast thou, in whom embodied Justice shone. The smile that gracious broke on thy grand face Was like the sunrise of a morn serene Among the mountains, making sweet their awe. Thou both the gentle and the strong didst draw; Thee childhood loved, and on thy breast would lean, As, whence thou cam'st, it knew the lofty place.
TO ONE THREATENED WITH BLINDNESS.
Lawrence, what though the world be growing dark, And twilight cool thy potent day inclose! The sun, beneath the round earth sunk, still glows All the night through, sleepless and young and stark. Oh, be thy spirit faithful as the lark, More daring: in the midnight of thy woes, Dart through them, higher than earth's shadow goes, Into the Light of which thou art a spark! Be willing to be blind—that, in thy night, The Lord may bring his Father to thy door, And enter in, and feast thy soul with light. Then shall thou dream of darksome ways no more, Forget the gloom that round thy windows lies, And shine, God's house, all radiant in our eyes.
Say thou, his will be done who is the good! His will be borne who knoweth how to bear! Who also in the night had need of prayer, Both when awoke divinely longing mood, And when the power of darkness him withstood. For what is coming take no jot of care: Behind, before, around thee as the air, He o'er thee like thy mother's heart will brood. And when thou hast wearied thy wings of prayer, Then fold them, and drop gently to thy nest, Which is thy faith; and make thy people blest With what thou bring'st from that ethereal height, Which whoso looks on thee will straightway share: He needs no eyes who is a shining light!
TO AUBREY DE VERE.
Ray of the Dawn of Truth, Aubrey de Vere, Forgive my play fantastic with thy name, Distilling its true essence by the flame Which Love 'neath Fancy's limbeck lighteth clear. I know not what thy semblance, what thy cheer; If, as thy spirit, hale thy bodily frame, Or furthering by failure each high aim; If green thy leaf, or, like mine, growing sear; But this I think, that thou wilt, by and by— Two journeys stoutly, therefore safely trod— We laying down the staff, and He the rod— So look on me I shall not need to cry— "We must be brothers, Aubrey, thou and I: We mean the same thing—will the will of God!"
Victorious through failure! faithful Lord, Who for twelve angel legions wouldst not pray From thine own country of eternal day, To shield thee from the lanterned traitor horde, Making thy one rash servant sheathe his sword!— Our long retarded legions, on their way, Toiling through sands, and shouldering Nile's down-sway, To reach thy soldier, keeping at thy word, Thou sawest foiled—but glorifiedst him, Over ten cities giving him thy rule! We will not mourn a star that grew not dim, A soldier-child of God gone home from school! A dregless cup, with life brimmed, he did quaff, And quaffs it now with Christ's imperial staff!
Another to the witnesses' roll-call Hath answered, "Here I am!" and so stept out— With willingness crowned everywhere about, Not the head only, but the body all, In one great nimbus of obedient fall, His heart's blood dashing in the face of doubt— Love's last victorious stand amid the rout! —Silence is left, and the untasted gall. No chariot with ramping steeds of fire The Father sent to fetch his man-child home; His brother only called, "My Gordon, come!" And like a dove to heaven he did aspire, His one wing Death, his other, Heart's-desire. —Farewell a while! we climb where thou hast clomb!
Methought I floated sightless, nor did know That I had ears until I heard the cry As of a mighty man in agony: "How long, Lord, shall I lie thus foul and slow? The arrows of thy lightning through me go, And sting and torture me—yet here I lie A shapeless mass that scarce can mould a sigh!" The darkness thinned; I saw a thing below Like sheeted corpse, a knot at head and feet. Slow clomb the sun the mountains of the dead, And looked upon the world: the silence broke! A blinding struggle! then the thunderous beat Of great exulting pinions stroke on stroke! And from that world a mighty angel fled.
THE SWEEPER OF THE FLOOR.
Methought that in a solemn church I stood. Its marble acres, worn with knees and feet, Lay spread from door to door, from street to street. Midway the form hung high upon the rood Of him who gave his life to be our good; Beyond, priests flitted, bowed, and murmured meet, Among the candles shining still and sweet. Men came and went, and worshipped as they could— And still their dust a woman with her broom, Bowed to her work, kept sweeping to the door. Then saw I, slow through all the pillared gloom, Across the church a silent figure come: "Daughter," it said, "thou sweepest well my floor!" It is the Lord! I cried, and saw no more.
Mourn not, my friends, that we are growing old: A fresher birth brings every new year in. Years are Christ's napkins to wipe off the sin. See now, I'll be to you an angel bold! My plumes are ruffled, and they shake with cold, Yet with a trumpet-blast I will begin. —Ah, no; your listening ears not thus I win! Yet hear, sweet sisters; brothers, be consoled:— Behind me comes a shining one indeed; Christ's friend, who from life's cross did take him down, And set upon his day night's starry crown! Death, say'st thou? Nay—thine be no caitiff creed!— A woman-angel! see—in long white gown! The mother of our youth!—she maketh speed.
TO A. J. SCOTT
WITH THE FOLLOWING POEM.
I walked all night: the darkness did not yield. Around me fell a mist, a weary rain, Enduring long. At length the dawn revealed
A temple's front, high-lifted from the plain. Closed were the lofty doors that led within; But by a wicket one might entrance gain.
'Twas awe and silence when I entered in; The night, the weariness, the rain were lost In hopeful spaces. First I heard a thin
Sweet sound of voices low, together tossed, As if they sought some harmony to find Which they knew once, but none of all that host
Could wile the far-fled music back to mind. Loud voices, distance-low, wandered along The pillared paths, and up the arches twined
With sister arches, rising, throng on throng, Up to the roof's dim height. At broken times The voices gathered to a burst of song,
But parted sudden, and were but single rimes By single bells through Sabbath morning sent, That have no thought of harmony or chimes.
Hopeful confusion! Who could be content Looking and hearkening from the distant door? I entered further. Solemnly it went—
Thy voice, Truth's herald, walking the untuned roar, Calm and distinct, powerful and sweet and fine: I loved and listened, listened and loved more.
May not the faint harp, tremulous, combine Its ghostlike sounds with organ's mighty tone? Let my poor song be taken in to thine.
Will not thy heart, with tempests of its own, Yet hear aeolian sighs from thin chords blown?
First-born of the creating Voice! Minister of God's Spirit, who wast sent Waiting upon him first, what time he went Moving about mid the tumultuous noise Of each unpiloted element Upon the face of the void formless deep! Thou who didst come unbodied and alone Ere yet the sun was set his rule to keep, Or ever the moon shone, Or e'er the wandering star-flocks forth were driven! Thou garment of the Invisible, whose skirt Sweeps, glory-giving, over earth and heaven! Thou comforter, be with me as thou wert When first I longed for words, to be A radiant garment for my thought, like thee!
We lay us down in sorrow, Wrapt in the old mantle of our mother Night; In vexing dreams we strive until the morrow; Grief lifts our eyelids up—and Lo, the light! The sunlight on the wall! And visions rise Of shining leaves that make sweet melodies; Of wind-borne waves with thee upon their crests; Of rippled sands on which thou rainest down; Of quiet lakes that smooth for thee their breasts; Of clouds that show thy glory as their own; O joy! O joy! the visions are gone by! Light, gladness, motion, are reality!
Thou art the god of earth. The skylark springs Far up to catch thy glory on his wings; And thou dost bless him first that highest soars. The bee comes forth to see thee; and the flowers Worship thee all day long, and through the skies Follow thy journey with their earnest eyes. River of life, thou pourest on the woods, And on thy waves float out the wakening buds; The trees lean toward thee, and, in loving pain, Keep turning still to see thee yet again; South sides of pines, haunted all day by thee, Bear violins that tremble humanly. And nothing in thine eyes is mean or low: Where'er thou art, on every side, All things are glorified; And where thou canst not come, there thou dost throw Beautiful shadows, made out of the dark, That else were shapeless; now it bears thy mark.
And men have worshipped thee. The Persian, on his mountain-top, Waits kneeling till thy sun go up, God-like in his serenity. All-giving, and none-gifted, he draws near, And the wide earth waits till his face appear— Longs patient. And the herald glory leaps Along the ridges of the outlying clouds, Climbing the heights of all their towering steeps. Sudden, still multitudinous laughter crowds The universal face: Lo, silently, Up cometh he, the never-closing eye! Symbol of Deity, men could not be Farthest from truth when they were kneeling unto thee!
Thou plaything of the child, When from the water's surface thou dost spring, Thyself upon his chamber ceiling fling, And there, in mazy dance and motion wild, Disport thyself—etherial, undefiled. Capricious, like the thinkings of the child! I am a child again, to think of thee In thy consummate glee. How I would play with thee, athirst to climb On sloping ladders of thy moted beams, When through the gray dust darting in long streams! How marvel at the dusky glimmering red, With which my closed fingers thou hadst made Like rainy clouds that curtain the sun's bed! And how I loved thee always in the moon! But most about the harvest-time, When corn and moonlight made a mellow tune, And thou wast grave and tender as a cooing dove! And then the stars that flashed cold, deathless love! And the ghost-stars that shimmered in the tide! And more mysterious earthly stars, That shone from windows of the hill and glen— Thee prisoned in with lattice-bars, Mingling with household love and rest of weary men! And still I am a child, thank God!—to spy Thee starry stream from bit of broken glass Upon the brown earth undescried, Is a found thing to me, a gladness high, A spark that lights joy's altar-fire within, A thought of hope to prophecy akin, That from my spirit fruitless will not pass.
Thou art the joy of age: Thy sun is dear when long the shadow falls. Forth to its friendliness the old man crawls, And, like the bird hung out in his poor cage To gather song from radiance, in his chair Sits by the door; and sitteth there His soul within him, like a child that lies Half dreaming, with half-open eyes, At close of a long afternoon in summer— High ruins round him, ancient ruins, where The raven is almost the only comer— Half dreams, half broods, in wonderment At thy celestial ascent Through rifted loop to light upon the gold That waves its bloom in some high airy rent: So dreams the old man's soul, that is not old, But sleepy mid the ruins that infold.
What soul-like changes, evanescent moods, Upon the face of the still passive earth, Its hills, and fields, and woods, Thou with thy seasons and thy hours art ever calling forth! Even like a lord of music bent Over his instrument, Giving to carol, now to tempest birth! When, clear as holiness, the morning ray Casts the rock's dewy darkness at its feet, Mottling with shadows all the mountain gray; When, at the hour of sovereign noon, Infinite silent cataracts sheet Shadowless through the air of thunder-breeding June; When now a yellower glory slanting passes 'Twixt longer shadows o'er the meadow grasses; And now the moon lifts up her shining shield, High on the peak of a cloud-hill revealed; Now crescent, low, wandering sun-dazed away, Unconscious of her own star-mingled ray, Her still face seeming more to think than see, Makes the pale world lie dreaming dreams of thee! No mood, eternal or ephemeral, But wakes obedient at thy silent call!
Of operative single power, And simple unity the one emblem, Yet all the colours that our passionate eyes devour, In rainbow, moonbow, or in opal gem, Are the melodious descant of divided thee. Lo thee in yellow sands! Lo thee In the blue air and sea! In the green corn, with scarlet poppies lit, Thy half-souls parted, patient thou dost sit. Lo thee in dying triumphs of the west! Lo thee in dew-drop's tiny breast! Thee on the vast white cloud that floats away, Bearing upon its skirt a brown moon-ray! Gold-regent, thou dost spendthrift throw Thy hoardless wealth of gleam and glow! The thousand hues and shades upon the flowers Are all the pastime of thy leisure hours; The jewelled ores in mines that hidden be, Are dead till touched by thee.
Everywhere, Thou art lancing through the air! Every atom from another Takes thee, gives thee to his brother; Continually, Thou art wetting the wet sea, Bathing its sluggish woods below, Making the salt flowers bud and blow; Silently, Workest thou, and ardently, Waking from the night of nought Into being and to thought;
Influences Every beam of thine dispenses, Potent, subtle, reaching far, Shooting different from each star. Not an iron rod can lie In circle of thy beamy eye, But its look doth change it so That it cannot choose but show Thou, the worker, hast been there; Yea, sometimes, on substance rare, Thou dost leave thy ghostly mark Even in what men call the dark. Ever doing, ever showing, Thou dost set our hearts a glowing— Universal something sent To shadow forth the Excellent!
When the firstborn affections— Those winged seekers of the world within, That search about in all directions, Some bright thing for themselves to win— Through pathless woods, through home-bred fogs, Through stony plains, through treacherous bogs, Long, long, have followed faces fair, Fair soul-less faces, vanished into air, And darkness is around them and above, Desolate of aught to love, And through the gloom on every side, Strange dismal forms are dim descried, And the air is as the breath From the lips of void-eyed Death, And the knees are bowed in prayer To the Stronger than despair— Then the ever-lifted cry, Give us light, or we shall die, Cometh to the Father's ears, And he hearkens, and he hears:—
As some slow sun would glimmer forth From sunless winter of the north, We, hardly trusting hopeful eyes, Discern and doubt the opening skies. From a misty gray that lies on Our dim future's far horizon, It grows a fresh aurora, sent Up the spirit's firmament, Telling, through the vapours dun, Of the coming, coming sun! Tis Truth awaking in the soul! His Righteousness to make us whole! And what shall we, this Truth receiving, Though with but a faint believing, Call it but eternal Light? 'Tis the morning, 'twas the night!
All things most excellent Are likened unto thee, excellent thing! Yea, he who from the Father forth was sent, Came like a lamp, to bring, Across the winds and wastes of night, The everlasting light. Hail, Word of God, the telling of his thought! Hail, Light of God, the making-visible! Hail, far-transcending glory brought In human form with man to dwell— Thy dazzling gone; thy power not less To show, irradiate, and bless; The gathering of the primal rays divine Informing chaos, to a pure sunshine!
Dull horrid pools no motion making! No bubble on the surface breaking! The dead air lies, without a sound, Heavy and moveless on the marshy ground.
Rushing winds and snow-like drift, Forceful, formless, fierce, and swift! Hair-like vapours madly riven! Waters smitten into dust! Lightning through the turmoil driven, Aimless, useless, yet it must!
Gentle winds through forests calling! Bright birds through the thick leaves glancing! Solemn waves on sea-shores falling! White sails on blue waters dancing! Mountain streams glad music giving! Children in the clear pool laving! Yellow corn and green grass waving! Long-haired, bright-eyed maidens living! Light, O radiant, it is thou! Light!—we know our Father now!
Forming ever without form; Showing, but thyself unseen; Pouring stillness on the storm; Breathing life where death had been! If thy light thou didst draw in, Death and Chaos soon were out, Weltering o'er the slimy sea, Riding on the whirlwind's rout, In wild unmaking energy! God, be round us and within, Fighting darkness, slaying sin.
Father of Lights, high-lost, unspeakable, On whom no changing shadow ever fell! Thy light we know not, are content to see; Thee we know not, and are content to be!— Nay, nay! until we know thee, not content are we! But, when thy wisdom cannot be expressed, Shall we imagine darkness in thy breast? Our hearts awake and witness loud for thee! The very shadows on our souls that lie, Good witness to the light supernal bear; The something 'twixt us and the sky Could cast no shadow if light were not there! If children tremble in the night, It is because their God is light! The shining of the common day Is mystery still, howe'er it ebb and flow— Behind the seeing orb, the secret lies: Thy living light's eternal play, Its motions, whence or whither, who shall know?— Behind the life itself, its fountains rise! In thee, the Light, the darkness hath no place; And we have seen thee in the Saviour's face.
Enlighten me, O Light!—why art thou such? Why art thou awful to our eyes, and sweet? Cherished as love, and slaying with a touch? Why in thee do the known and unknown meet? Why swift and tender, strong and delicate? Simple as truth, yet manifold in might? Why does one love thee, and another hate? Why cleave my words to the portals of my speech When I a goodly matter would indite? Why mounts my thought of thee beyond my reach? —In vain to follow thee, I thee beseech, For God is light.
TO A. J. SCOTT.
When, long ago, the daring of my youth Drew nigh thy greatness with a little thing, Thou didst receive me; and thy sky of truth
Has domed me since, a heaven of sheltering, Made homely by the tenderness and grace Which round thy absolute friendship ever fling
A radiant atmosphere. Turn not thy face From that small part of earnest thanks, I pray, Which, spoken, leaves much more in speechless case.
I see thee far before me on thy way Up the great peaks, and striding stronger still; Thy intellect unrivalled in its sway,
Upheld and ordered by a regnant will; Thy wisdom, seer and priest of holy fate, Searching all truths its prophecy to fill;
But this my joy: throned in thy heart so great, High Love is queen, and sits without a mate.
I WOULD I WERE A CHILD.
I would I were a child, That I might look, and laugh, and say, My Father! And follow thee with running feet, or rather Be led through dark and wild!
How I would hold thy hand, My glad eyes often to thy glory lifting! Should darkness 'twixt thy face and mine come drifting, My heart would but expand.
If an ill thing came near, I would but creep within thy mantle's folding, Shut my eyes close, thy hand yet faster holding, And soon forget my fear.
O soul, O soul, rejoice! Thou art God's child indeed, for all thy sinning; A poor weak child, yet his, and worth the winning With saviour eyes and voice.
Who spake the words? Didst Thou? They are too good, even for such a giver: Such water drinking once, I should feel ever As I had drunk but now.
Yet sure the Word said so, Teaching our lips to cry with his, Our Father! Telling the tale of him who once did gather His goods to him, and go!
Ah, thou dost lead me, God! But it is dark and starless, the way dreary; Almost I sleep, I am so very weary Upon this rough hill-road.
Almost! Nay, I do sleep; There is no darkness save in this my dreaming; Thy fatherhood above, around, is beaming; Thy hand my hand doth keep.
With sighs my soul doth teem; I have no knowledge but that I am sleeping; Haunted with lies, my life will fail in weeping; Wake me from this my dream.
How long shall heavy night Deny the day? How long shall this dull sorrow Say in my heart that never any morrow Will bring the friendly light?
Lord, art thou in the room? Come near my bed; oh, draw aside the curtain! A child's heart would say Father, were it certain That it would not presume.
But if this dreary sleep May not be broken, help thy helpless sleeper To rest in thee; so shall his sleep grow deeper— For evil dreams too deep.
Father! I dare at length; My childhood sure will hold me free from blaming: Sinful yet hoping, I to thee come, claiming Thy tenderness, my strength.
A PRAYER FOR THE PAST.
All sights and sounds of day and year, All groups and forms, each leaf and gem, Are thine, O God, nor will I fear To talk to thee of them.
Too great thy heart is to despise, Whose day girds centuries about; From things which we name small, thine eyes See great things looking out.
Therefore the prayerful song I sing May come to thee in ordered words: Though lowly born, it needs not cling In terror to its chords.
I think that nothing made is lost; That not a moon has ever shone, That not a cloud my eyes hath crossed But to my soul is gone.
That all the lost years garnered lie In this thy casket, my dim soul; And thou wilt, once, the key apply, And show the shining whole.
But were they dead in me, they live In thee, whose Parable is—Time, And Worlds, and Forms—all things that give Me thoughts, and this my rime.
And after what men call my death, When I have crossed the unknown sea, Some heavenly morn, on hopeful breath, Shall rise this prayer to thee.
Oh let me be a child once more, And dream fine glories in the gloom, Of sun and moon and stars in store To ceil my humble room.
Oh call again the moons that crossed Blue gulfs, behind gray vapours crept; Show me the solemn skies I lost Because in thee I slept.
Once more let gathering glory swell, And lift the world's dim eastern eye; Once more let lengthening shadows tell Its time is come to die.
But show me first—oh, blessed sight! The lowly house where I was young; There winter sent wild winds at night, And up the snow-heaps flung;