In the far forest, overhead,
A bell is often heard obscurely;
How long since first, no one can tell–
Nor can report explain it surely:
From the lost church, the rumour hath,
Out on the winds the ringing goeth;
Once full of pilgrims was the path–
Now where to find it, no one knoweth.
Deep in the wood I lately went
Where no foot-trodden way is lying;
From times corrupt, on evil bent,
My heart to God went out in sighing:
There, in the wild wood’s deep repose,
I heard the ringing somewhat nearer;
The higher that my longing rose
Its peal grew fuller and came clearer.
My thoughts upon themselves did brood;
My sense was with the sound so busy
That I have never understood
How I did climb that steep so dizzy.
It seemed more than a hundred years
Had passed me over, dreaming, sighing–
When far above the clouds appears
An open space in sunlight lying.
Dark-blue the heavens above it bowed;
The sun was radiant, large, and glowing;
And, see, a minister’s structure proud
Stood in the rich light, golden showing.
The clouds around it, sunny-clear,
Seemed bearing it aloft like pinions;
Its spire-point seemed to disappear,
Slow vanishing in heaven’s dominions.
The bell’s clear tones, of rapture full,
Boomed in the tower and made it quiver;
No mortal hand that rope did pull–
A dumb storm made it swing and shiver.
It seemed to heave my throbbing breast,
That heavenly storm with torrent blended:
With wavering step, yet hopeful quest,
Into the church my way I wended.
What met me there as in I trode
With syllables cannot be painted;
Darksome yet clear, the windows glowed
With forms of all the martyrs sainted.
Then saw I, radiantly unfurled,
Form swell to life and break its barriers;
I looked abroad into a world
Of holy women and God’s warriors.
Down at the alter I kneeled soft,
With love and prayer my heart allegiant:
Upon the ceiling, far aloft,
Was painted Heaven’s resplendent pageant;
But when again I lift mine eyes,
Lo, the high vault has flown asunder!
The upward gate wide open lies,
And every veil unveils a wonder.
What gloriousness I then beheld
With silent worship, speechless wonder;
What blessed sounds upon me swelled,
Like organs’ and like trumpets’ thunder–
No human words could ever tell!–
But who for such is sighing sorest,
Let him give heed unto the bell
That dimly soundeth in the forest.