J. G. Holland
Part 3 out of 3
He asks your good friend's name;
You do not understand him.
It is hard
To give denial to a dying wish;
But, Edward, I've no right to speak his name.
He was a Christian man, and you may give
Of the full largess of your gratitude
All, without robbing God, you have to give,
And fail, e'en then, of worthy recompense.
Your will is mine.
Nay, Mary, tell it him!
Where is he going he should bruit the name?
Remember where he lies, and that no ears
Save those of angels--
There are others here
Who may not hear it.
We will all retire.
It is not proper we should linger here,
Barring the sacred confidence of hearts
Parting so sadly.
Mary, you must yield,
Nor keep the secret longer from your friends,
David, you know not what you say.
So give the dying man no more delay.
I will declare it under your command.
This stranger friend--stranger for many months--
This man, selectest instrument of Heaven,
Who gave me succor in my hour of need,
Snatched me from ruin, rescued me from want,
Counseled and cheered me, prayed with me, and then
Led me with careful hand into the light,
Was he now bending over you in tears--
David, my brother!
Blessed be his name!
Brother by every law, above--below!
[_Pale and trembling_,]
David? My husband? Did I hear aright?
You are not jesting! Sure you would not jest
At such a juncture! Speak, my husband, speak!
Is this a plot to cheat a dying man,
Or cheat a wife who, if it be no plot,
Is worthy death? What can you mean by this?
Not more nor less than my true words convey.
Nay, David, tell me!
Mary's words are truth.
O mean and jealous heart, what hast thou done!
What wrong to honor, spite to Christian love,
And shame to self beyond self-pardoning!
How can I ever lift my faithless eyes
To those true eyes that I have counted false;
Or meet those lips that I have charged with lies;
Or win the dear embraces I have spurned?
O most unhappy, most unworthy wife!
No one but he who still has clung to thee,--
Proud, and imperious, and impenitent,--
No one but he who has in silence borne
Thy peevish criminations and complaints
Can now forgive thee, when in deepest shame
Thou bowest with confession of thy faults.
Dear husband! David! Look upon your wife!
Behold one kneeling never knelt to you!
I have abused you and your faithful love,
And, in my great humiliation, pray
You will not trample me beneath your feet.
Pity my weakness, and remember, too,
That Love was jealous of thee, and not Hate--
That it was Love's own pride tormented me.
My husband, take me once more to your arms,
And kiss me in forgiveness; say that you
Will be my counselor, my friend, my love;
And I will give myself to you again,
To be all yours--my reason, confidence,
My faith and trust all yours, my heart's best love,
My service and my prayers, all yours--all yours!
Rise, dearest, rise! It gives me only pain
That such as you should kneel to such as I.
Your words inform me that you know how weak
I am whom you have only fancied weak.
Forgive you? I forgive you everything;
And take the pardon which your prayer insures.
Let this embrace, this kiss, be evidence
Our jarring hearts catch common rhythm again,
And we are lovers.
Hush! You trouble him.
He understands this scene no more than we.
Mary, he speaks to you.
Dear wife, farewell!
The room grows dim, and silently and soft
The veil is dropping 'twixt my eyes and yours,
Which soon will hide me from you--you from me.
Only one hand is warm; it rests in yours,
Whose full, sweet pulses throb along my arm,
So that I live upon them. Cling to me!
And thus your life, after my life is past,
Shall lay me gently in the arms of Death.
Thus shall you link your being with a soul
Gazing unveiled upon the Great White Throne.
Dear hearts of love surrounding me, farewell!
I cannot see you now; or, if I do,
You are transfigured. There are floating forms
That whisper over me like summer leaves;
And now there comes, and spreads through all my soul.
Delicious influx of another life,
From out whose essence spring, like living flowers,
Angelic senses with quick ultimates,
That catch the rustle of ethereal robes,
And the thin chime of melting minstrelsy--
Rising and falling--answered far away--
As Echo, dreaming in the twilight woods,
Repeats the warble of her twilight birds.
And flowers that mock the Iris toss their cups
In the impulsive ether, and spill out
Sweet tides of perfume, fragrant deluges,
Flooding my spirit like an angel's breath.
* * * * *
And still the throng increases; still unfold
With broader span and more elusive sweep
The radiant vistas of a world divine.
But O my soul! what vision rises now!
Far, far away, white blazing like the sun,
In deepest distance and on highest height,
Through walls diaphanous, and atmosphere
Flecked with unnumbered forms of missive power,
Out-going fleetly and returning slow,
A Presence shines I may not penetrate;
But on a throne, with smile ineffable,
I see a form my conscious spirit knows.
Jesus, my Saviour! Jesus, Lamb of God!
Jesus who taketh from me all my sins,
And from the world! Jesus, I come to thee!
Come thou to me! O come, Lord, quickly! Come!
Flown on the wings of rapture! Is this death?
His heart is still; his beaded brow is cold;
His wasted breast struggles for breath no more;
And his pale features, hardened with the stress
Of Life's resistance, momently subside
Into a smile, calm as a twilight lake,
Sprent with the images of rising stars,
We have seen Evil in his countless forms
In these poor lives; have met his armed hosts
In dread encounter and discomfiture;
And languished in captivity to them,
Until we lost our courage and our faith;
And here we see their Chieftain--Terror's King!
He cuts the knot that binds a weary soul
To faithless passions, sateless appetites,
And powers perverted, and it flies away
Singing toward heaven. He turns and looks at us,
And finds us weeping with our gratitude--
Full of sweet sorrow,--sorrow sweeter far
Than the supremest ecstasy of joy.
And this is death! Think you that raptured soul
Now walking humbly in the golden streets,
Bearing the precious burden of a love
Too great for utterance, or with hushed heart
Drinking the music of the ransomed throng,
Counts death an evil?--evil, sickness, pain,
Calamity, or aught that God prescribed
To cure it of its sin, or bring it where
The healing hand of Christ might touch it? No!
He is a man to-night--a man in Christ.
This was his childhood, here; and as we give
A smile of wonder to the little woes
That drew the tears from out our own young eyes,
The kind corrections and severe constraints
Imposed by those who loved us--so he sees
A father's chastisement in all the ill
That filled his life with darkness; so he sees
In every evil a kind instrument
To chasten, elevate, correct, subdue,
And fit him for that heavenly estate--
Saintship in Christ--the Manhood Absolute!
Midnight and silence! In the West, unveiled,
The broad, full moon is shining, with the stars.
On mount and valley, forest, roof, and rock,
On billowy hills smooth-stretching to the sky,
On rail and wall, on all things far and near,
Cling the bright crystals,--all the earth a floor
Of polished silver, pranked with bending forms
Uplifting to the light their precious weight
Of pearls and diamonds, set in palest gold.
The storm is dead; and when it rolled away
It took no star from heaven, but left to earth
Such legacy of beauty as The Wind--
The light-robed shepherdess from Cuban groves--
Driving soft showers before her, and warm airs,
And her wide-scattered flocks of wet-winged birds,
Never bestowed upon the waiting Spring.
Pale, silent, smiling, cold, and beautiful!
Do storms die thus? And is it this to die?
Midnight and silence! In that hallowed room
God's full-orbed peace is shining, with the stars.
On head and hand, on brow, and lip, and eye,
On folded arms, on broad unmoving breast,
On the white-sanded floor, on everything
Rest the pale radiance, while bending forms
Stand all around, loaded with precious weight
Of jewels such as holy angels wear.
The man is dead; and when he passed away
He blotted out no good, but left behind
Such wealth of faith, such store of love and trust,
As breath of joy, in-floating from the isles
Smiled on by ceaseless summer, and indued
With foliage and flowers perennial,
Never conveyed to the enchanted soul.
Do men die thus? And is it this to die?
Midnight and silence! At each waiting tied,
Husband and wife, embracing, kneel in prayer;
And lips unused to such a benison
Breathe blessings upon evil, and give thanks
For knowledge of its sacred ministry.
An infant nestles on a mother's breast,
Whose head is pillowed where it has not lain
For months of wasted life--the tale all told,
And confidence and love for aye secure.
The widow and the virgin: where are they?
The morn shall find them watching with the dead,
Like the two angels at the tomb of Christ,--
One at the head, the other at the foot,--
Guarding a sepulcher whose occupant
Has risen, and rolled the heavy stone away!
[Transcriber's Note: In the First Movement, one word was missing from
our print copy; the symbol [***] denotes the missing word.
This work contains some rare words and variants, such as
blent, indites, mekly, reck, ruth (no capital), sprent, and ween.]
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