The Bedridden Peasant To An Unknown God
Much wonder I--here long low-laid -
That this dead wall should be
Betwixt the Maker and the made,
Between Thyself and me!
For, say one puts a child to nurse,
He eyes it now and then
To know if better 'tis, or worse,
And if it mourn, and when.
But Thou, Lord, giv'st us men our clay
In helpless bondage thus
To Time and Chance, and seem'st straightway
To think no more of us!
That some disaster cleft Thy scheme
And tore us wide apart,
So that no cry can cross, I deem;
For Thou art mild of heart,
And would'st not shape and shut us in
Where voice can not he heard:
'Tis plain Thou meant'st that we should win
Thy succour by a word.
Might but Thy sense flash down the skies
Like man's from clime to clime,
Thou would'st not let me agonize
Through my remaining time;
But, seeing how much Thy creatures bear -
Lame, starved, or maimed, or blind -
Thou'dst heal the ills with quickest care
Of me and all my kind.
Then, since Thou mak'st not these things be,
But these things dost not know,
I'll praise Thee as were shown to me
The mercies Thou would'st show!
The Sick God
In days when men had joy of war,
A God of Battles sped each mortal jar;
The peoples pledged him heart and hand,
From Israel's land to isles afar.
His crimson form, with clang and chime,
Flashed on each murk and murderous meeting-time,
And kings invoked, for rape and raid,
His fearsome aid in rune and rhyme.
On bruise and blood-hole, scar and seam,
On blade and bolt, he flung his fulgid beam:
His haloes rayed the very gore,
And corpses wore his glory-gleam.
Often an early King or Queen,
And storied hero onward, knew his sheen;
'Twas glimpsed by Wolfe, by Ney anon,
And Nelson on his blue demesne.
But new light spread. That god's gold nimb
And blazon have waned dimmer and more dim;
Even his flushed form begins to fade,
Till but a shade is left of him.
That modern meditation broke
His spell, that penmen's pleadings dealt a stroke,
Say some; and some that crimes too dire
Did much to mire his crimson cloak.
Yea, seeds of crescive sympathy
Were sown by those more excellent than he,
Long known, though long contemned till then -
The gods of men in amity.
Souls have grown seers, and thought out-brings
The mournful many-sidedness of things
With foes as friends, enfeebling ires
And fury-fires by gaingivings!
He scarce impassions champions now;
They do and dare, but tensely--pale of brow;
And would they fain uplift the arm
Of that faint form they know not how.
Yet wars arise, though zest grows cold;
Wherefore, at whiles, as 'twere in ancient mould
He looms, bepatched with paint and lath;
But never hath he seemed the old!
Let men rejoice, let men deplore.
The lurid Deity of heretofore
Succumbs to one of saner nod;
The Battle-god is god no more.
I towered far, and lo! I stood within
The presence of the Lord Most High,
Sent thither by the sons of earth, to win
Some answer to their cry.
--"The Earth, say'st thou? The Human race?
By Me created? Sad its lot?
Nay: I have no remembrance of such place:
Such world I fashioned not." -
--"O Lord, forgive me when I say
Thou spak'st the word, and mad'st it all." -
"The Earth of men--let me bethink me . . . Yea!
I dimly do recall
"Some tiny sphere I built long back
(Mid millions of such shapes of mine)
So named . . . It perished, surely--not a wrack
Remaining, or a sign?
"It lost my interest from the first,
My aims therefor succeeding ill;
Haply it died of doing as it durst?" -
"Lord, it existeth still." -
"Dark, then, its life! For not a cry
Of aught it bears do I now hear;
Of its own act the threads were snapt whereby
Its plaints had reached mine ear.
"It used to ask for gifts of good,
Till came its severance self-entailed,
When sudden silence on that side ensued,
And has till now prevailed.
"All other orbs have kept in touch;
Their voicings reach me speedily:
Thy people took upon them overmuch
In sundering them from me!
"And it is strange--though sad enough -
Earth's race should think that one whose call
Frames, daily, shining spheres of flawless stuff
Must heed their tainted ball! . . .
"But say'st thou 'tis by pangs distraught,
And strife, and silent suffering? -
Deep grieved am I that injury should be wrought
Even on so poor a thing!
"Thou should'st have learnt that Not to Mend
For Me could mean but Not to Know:
Hence, Messengers! and straightway put an end
To what men undergo." . . .
Homing at dawn, I thought to see
One of the Messengers standing by.
- Oh, childish thought! . . . Yet oft it comes to me
When trouble hovers nigh.