Hear me, O Lord,
When the black night draws down upon my soul,
And voices of temptation darken down
The misty wind, slamming thy starry doors
With bitter jests:–“Thou fool!” they seem to say,
“Thou hast no seed of goodness in thee; all
Thy nature hath been stung right through and through;
Thy sin hath blasted thee and made thee old;
Thou hadst a will, but thou hast killed it dead,
And with the fulsome garniture of life
Built out the loathsome corpse; thou art a child
Of night and death, even lower than a worm;
Gather the skirts up of thy shadowy self,
And with what resolution thou hast left
Fall on the damned spikes of doom!”
Oh, take me like a child,
If thou hast made me for thyself, my God,
And lead me up thy hills. I shall not fear,
So thou wilt make me pure, and beat back sin
With the terrors of thine eye: it fears me not
As once it might have feared thine own good image,
But lays bold siege at my heart’s doors.
Oh, I have seen a thing of beauty stand
In the young moonlight of its upward thoughts,
And the old earth came round it with its gifts
Of gladness, whispering leaves, and odorous plants,
Until its large and spiritual eye
Burned with intensest love: my God, I could
Have watched it evermore with Argus-eyes,
Lest when the noontide of the summer’s sun
Let down the tented sunlight on the plain,
His flaming beams should scorch my darling flower;
And through the fruitless nights of leaden gloom,
Of plashing rains, and knotted winds of cold,
Yea, when thy lightnings ran across the sky,
And the loud stumbling blasts fell from the hills
Upon the mounds of death, I could have watched
Guarding such beauty like another life!
But, O my God, it changed!–
Yet methinks I know not if it was not I!
Its beauty turned to ghastly loathsomeness!
Then a hand spurned me backwards from the clouds,
And with the gather of a mighty whirlwind,
Drew in the glittering gifts of life.
How long, O Lord, how long?
I am a man lost in a rocky place!
Lo, all thy echoes smite me with confusion
Of varied speech,–the cry of vanished Life
Rolled upon nations’ sighs–of hearts uplifted
Against despair–the stifled sounds of Woe
Sitting perpetual by its grey cold well–
Or wasted Toil climbing its endless hills
With quickening gasps–or the thin winds of Joy
That beat about the voices of the crowd!
Lord, hast thou sent
Thy moons to mock us with perpetual hope?
Lighted within our breasts the love of love
To make us ripen for despair, my God?
Oh, dost thou hold each individual soul
Strung clear upon thy flaming rods of purpose?
Or does thine inextinguishable will
Stand on the steeps of night with lifted hand
Filling the yawning wells of monstrous space
With mixing thought–drinking up single life
As in a cup? and from the rending folds
Of glimmering purpose, do all thy navied stars
Slide through the gloom with mystic melody,
Like wishes on a brow? Oh, is my soul,
Hung like a dewdrop in thy grassy ways,
Drawn up again into the rack of change
Even through the lustre which created it?
–O mighty one, thou wilt not smite me through
With scorching wrath, because my spirit stands
Bewildered in thy circling mysteries!
Oh lift the burdened gloom that chokes my soul
With dews of darkness; smite the lean winds of death
That run with howls around the ruined temples,
Blowing the souls of men about like leaves.