Category: Ballads and Other Poems
Extract From Miriam
|And my friend queried how it came
To pass that they who owned the same
Great Master still could not agree
To worship Him in company.
Then, broadening in his thought, he ran
Over the whole vast field of man,-
The varying forms of faith and creed
That somehow served the holders' need;
In which, unquestioned, undenied,
Uncounted millions lived and died;
The bibles of the ancient folk,
Through which the heart of nations spoke;
The old moralities which lent
To home its sweetness and content,
And rendered possible to bear
The life of peoples everywhere:
And asked if we, who boast of light,
Claim not a too exclusive right
To truths which must for all be meant,
Like rain and sunshine freely sent.
In bondage to the letter still,
We give it power to cramp and kill-
To tax God's fullness with a scheme
Narrower than Peter's house-top dream,
His wisdom and his love with plans
Poor and inadequate as man's.
It must be that He witnesses
Somehow to all men that He is:
That something of his saving grace
Reaches the lowest of the race,
who, through strange creed and rite,
The hints of a diviner law.
We walk in clearer light; - but then,
Is He not God? - are they not men?
Are his responsibilities
For us alone and not for these?
And I made answer: "Truth is one;
And, in all lands beneath the sun,
Whoso hath eyes to see may see
The tokens of its unity.
"No scroll of creed its fullness wraps,
We trace it not by school-boy maps,
Free as the sun and air it is
Of latitudes and boundaries.
In vedic verse, in dull Koran,
Are messages of good to man;
the angels to our Aryan sires
Talked by the earliest household fires;
The prophets of the elder day,
THe slant-eyed sages of Cathay,
Read not the riddle all amiss
Of higher life evolved from this.
"Nor doth it lessen what He taught,
Or make the gospel Jesus brought
Less precious, that his lips retold
Some portion of that truth of old;
Denying not the proven seers,
The tested wisdom of the years;
Confirming with his own impress
The common law of righteousness.
"We search the world for truth; we cull
The good, the pure, the beautiful,
From graven stone and written scroll,
From all old flower-fields of the soul;
And, weary seekers of the best,
We come back laden from quest,
To find that all the sages said
Is in the Book our mothers read,
And all our treasure of old thought
In his harmonious fullness wrought
Who gathers in one sheath complete
The scattered blades of God's sown wheat,
The common growth that maketh good
His all-embracing Fatherhood.
"Wherever through the ages rise
The altars of self-sacrifice,
Where love its arms has opened wide,
Or man for man has calmly died,
I see the same white wings outspread
That hovered o'er the Master's head!
"Up from undated time they come,
The martyr souls of heathendom,
And to his cross and passion bring
Their fellowship of suffering.
I trace his presence in the blind
Pathetic gropings of my kind,
In cradle-hymns of life they sung,
Each, in its measure, but a part
Of the unmeasured Over-Heart;
And with a stronger faith confess
The greater that it owns the less.
"Good cause it is for thankfulness
that the world-blessing of his life
With the long past is not as strife;
That the great marvel of his death
To the one order witnesseth,
No doubt of changeless goodness wakes,
No link of cause and sequence breaks,
But, one with nature, rooted is
In the eternal verities;
"Whereby, while differing in degree
As finite from infinity,
The pain and loss for others borne,
Love's crown of suffering meekly worn,
The life man giveth for his friend
Becomes vicarious in the end;
Their healing place in nature take,
and make life sweeter for their sake.
"So welcome I from every source
The tokens of that primal Force,
Older than heaven itself, yet new
As the young heart it reaches to,
Beneath whose steady impulse rolls
The tidal wave of human souls;
Guide, comforter, and inward word,
The eternal spirit of the lord!
"Nor fear I aught that science brings
From searching through material things;
Content to let its glasses prove,
Not by the letter's oldness move,
The myriad worlds on worlds that course
The spaces of universe;
Since everywhere the Spirit walks
The garden of the heart, and talks
With man as under Eden's trees,
In all his varied languages.
"Why mourn above some hopeless flaw
In the stone tables of the law,
When scripture every day afresh
Is traced on tablets of the flesh?
By inward sense, by outward signs,
God's presence still the heart divines;
Through deepest joy of Him we learn,
In sorest grief to him we turn,
And reason stoops its pride to share
The child-like instinct of a prayer."
- John Greenleaf Whittier