Stand still, my soul, in the silent dark
I would question thee,
Alone in the shadow drear and stark
With God and me!
What, my soul, was thy errand here?
Was it mirth or ease,
Or heaping up dust from year to year?
“Nay, none of these!”
Speak, soul, aright in His holy sight
Whose eye looks still
And steadily on thee through the night
“To do His will!”
What hast thou done, O soul of mine,
That thou tremblest so?
Hast thou wrought His task, and kept the line
He bade thee go?
Aha! thou tremblest!–well I see
Thou ‘rt craven grown.
Is it so hard with God and me
To stand alone?
Summon thy sunshine bravery back,
O wretched sprite!
Let me hear thy voice through this deep and black
What hast thou wrought for Right and Truth,
For God and Man,
From the golden hours of bright-eyed youth
To life’s mid span?
What, silent all! art sad of cheer?
Art fearful now?
When God seemed far and men were near,
How brave wert thou!
Ah, soul of mine, thy tones I hear,
But weak and low,
Like far sad murmurs on my ear
They come and go.
I have wrestled stoutly with the Wrong,
And borne the Right
From beneath the footfall of the throng
To life and light.
“Wherever Freedom shivered a chain,
God speed, quoth I;
To Error amidst her shouting train
I gave the lie.”
Ah, soul of mine! ah, soul of mine!
Thy deeds are well:
Were they wrought for Truth’s sake or for thine?
My soul, pray tell.
“Of all the work my hand hath wrought
Beneath the sky,
Save a place in kindly human thought,
No gain have I.”
Go to, go to! for thy very self
Thy deeds were done
Thou for fame, the miser for pelf,
Your end is one!
And where art thou going, soul of mine?
Canst see the end?
And whither this troubled life of thine
Evermore doth tend?
What daunts thee now? what shakes thee so?
My sad soul say.
“I see a cloud like a curtain low
Hang o’er my way.
“Whither I go I cannot tell
That cloud hangs black,
High as the heaven and deep as hell
Across my track.
“I see its shadow coldly enwrap
The souls before.
Sadly they enter it, step by step,
To return no more.
“They shrink, they shudder, dear God! they kneel
To Thee in prayer.
They shut their eyes on the cloud, but feel
That it still is there.
“In vain they turn from the dread Before
To the Known and Gone;
For while gazing behind them evermore
Their feet glide on.
“Yet, at times, I see upon sweet pale faces
A light begin
To tremble, as if from holy places
And shrines within.
“And at times methinks their cold lips move
With hymn and prayer,
As if somewhat of awe, but more of love
And hope were there.
“I call on the souls who have left the light
To reveal their lot;
I bend mine ear to that wall of night,
And they answer not.
“But I hear around me sighs of pain
And the cry of fear,
And a sound like the slow sad dropping of rain,
Each drop a tear!
“Ah, the cloud is dark, and day by day
I am moving thither
I must pass beneath it on my way–
God pity me!–whither?”
Ah, soul of mine! so brave and wise
In the life-storm loud,
Fronting so calmly all human eyes
In the sunlit crowd!