Between the gates of birth and death
An old and saintly pilgrim passed,
With look of one who witnesseth
The long-sought goal at last.
O thou whose reverent feet have found
The Master’s footprints in thy way,
And walked thereon as holy ground,
A boon of thee I pray.
“My lack would borrow thy excess,
My feeble faith the strength of thine;
I need thy soul’s white saintliness
To hide the stains of mine.
“The grace and favor else denied
May well be granted for thy sake.”
So, tempted, doubting, sorely tried,
A younger pilgrim spake.
“Thy prayer, my son, transcends my gift;
No power is mine,” the sage replied,
“The burden of a soul to lift
Or stain of sin to hide.
“Howe’er the outward life may seem,
For pardoning grace we all must pray;
No man his brother can redeem
Or a soul’s ransom pay.
“Not always age is growth of good;
Its years have losses with their gain;
Against some evil youth withstood
Weak hands may strive in vain.
“With deeper voice than any speech
Of mortal lips from man to man,
What earth’s unwisdom may not teach
The Spirit only can.
“Make thou that holy guide thine own,
And following where it leads the way,
The known shall lapse in the unknown
As twilight into day.
“The best of earth shall still remain,
And heaven’s eternal years shall prove
That life and death, and joy and pain,
Are ministers of Love.”