F. W. Grant.
Abstracted from "Leaves from the Book".
1. — Night
The sun at noon is paling into night;
Without a cloud the circling hills grow dim;
A city's murmur hushes into blank
And utter silence, as if nature stood
Suspense, to hear the uncreating word,
And at her Maker's bidding be unmade.
One shadow only, 'mid the deepening gloom,
Still deepening stands, as if the judgment-scroll
Upon its blighted head were nature's doom:
As if the awful burden which it raised
Upon its naked arms, in mute appeal
To heaven, had stricken to her centre earth.
Two crosses, with their freight of living death,—
Of life with death which wrestles, for defeat,
Not victory two deaths of common shame
And common sin, which the night blots but out
Easily, as a thing 'mid myriad things
Accustomed, which but wake a moment's ruth,
And pass, and are forgotten.
But here — though numbered with transgressors — here,
Not where the night falls, but from whence it falls,
Stilling the mocks of mockers, who for sin
Had silence, if not pity, — here, not sin
Suffers, but righteousness; from hatred, love;
Love most compassionate, from basest hate
Bred by it, as corruption by the sun.
No strange thing yet, for earth which has drunk in
From many a brother's hand a brother's blood,
Since Abel; and the heaven looked calmly down,
Nor paled her light for many a sight like this;
The ashes from the martyr's furnace-fire
Have flaunted in her face and brought no frown;
Her rains have washed the stains from off the earth,
And fields have fattened on her slaughter'd dead.
No cloud for those upon whose face had shone,
Ev'n to the last, heaven's sweet approving ray;
Who smiled it back to heaven from block and stake,
And various battle-field of good with ill,
And, dying, found but death transformed to life,—
Defeat to victory.
No cloud for sufferers who had but plumb'd
The depths of human enmity, to find,
Beyond it all, a bottom; for their hearts
Failing, had met a heart that could not fail,
Nor yet forsake: they trusted upon God,
And, howsoe'er the storm of trial raged,
Their roof abode, they housed them in His love,
Trusting and not forsaken; shepherd-rod
And staff were there to comfort, the way of life
If yet through death; and darkness glorified
At even-tide to noon.
Here had God failed, that thus the heavens should blank?
For He was surely righteous; o'er His head
They once had opened, and the Father's voice
Proclaimed His pleasure in His Well-beloved:
'Gainst Him false witness witnessed but its shame;
The judge had justified whom he condemned;
The pitiless voices round about His cross
Mock'd but His goodness and His trust in God.
Yet, as the darkness deepened into night,—
A voiceless night, as nature had no cry,
As grief had now no meaning, but with joy
Had ceased, like shadow with the bye-gone sun,—
His voice of truth, if still truth were, His voice,
Not of His silenced enemies, proclaimed
Himself by God forsaken.
We had built our hopes upon Him; we had thought
The wreck that yet had spared no other thing,
Could not touch Him: all other things to Him
Had been but total and mere opposites:
It seemed as if all else had failed, that He
Alone might bear the pillars of the earth,
As if He were a rock too high for floods,
On which whoever builded built secure.
He had brought light into the world, and life
Into the valley of the shadow of death,
Where hope sat dumbly gazing on despair,
Stanching, if but she might, the wounds which truth
Had gotten at the traitor hand of greed,
While discord built its Babel-empire up
And preached that evil was a phase of good
And curse was misread blessing.
His voice, had made faith possible once more,
And right, being possible; the spectral mists
Rolled off the earth, rolled off the face of heaven,
And the clouds changing, changed no whit the sun,
Which kept its ordered path amid them all,
Hidden or manifest; and which was cloud
Changeful, we knew, and which was changeless sun.
Earth stood revealed, as heaven alone reveals:
Its penury, its squalor, and its sin;
Its evil worse in evil, as the pure,
Rebuking light shone, undefilable,
Upon the surging of its yeasty sea,
Which chafing, hoarse and white-lipped, had its bound
From God, and broke in vain upon the shore.
No winter ray, upon the earth it fell
And kissed the tears of night from off its face,
And waked it with the gentle touch of Spring
Into new life, life out of death, which waked
Amid the murmur of a thousand tongues
Swelling into a harmony of song
From heaven's sweet choristers. Earth's spring had come,
Spring with her burst of life and leaf had come,
Her winter night had fled away forever.
And He, of all her deep-hid mysteries, He,
God's dear Interpreter, Man amongst men,
Of lowly lowliest, of near most near,
Grief's intimate, as come to be acquaint,
Love-sent, with all the sorrows He would heal,
The crown of thorns, which but of late He wore,
Was His in more than mockery, — thorns which, plucked
Out of man's pathway, were indeed His crown.
He called not for Elias: He who called
Only on God, His God; on God He called
The hearer and the answerer of prayer;
The hope of all the righteous evermore,
The refuge and the shield of the oppressed,
The Rock of all that trust Him evermore;
Out of the dark, out of the inner dark
Upon His soul, He in His agony:
"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"
2. — Morning
The bitter night is past, the morn is come;
The morn for which earth's forty centuries
Have waited on in hope, that, oft deferred,
Oft nigh to death, now out of death itself
New-born, has sprung up into life o'er which
Death has no more dominion. Over Him
It has no more: our hope, our life, our all
He has brought with Him out of death, and death
Henceforth has no dominion evermore.
Darkness is past, and the true light now shines;
The shadow on the face of God is gone, —
Gone with the awful shadow of the cross:
The light is in His face come back from death,
Back from the tomb so impotently closed,
To tell us of our peace secured, and heaven,
His and His Father's dwelling-place, our home.
And now as we look back from off the bank
Of Jordan's waters, parted for our path,
To where lie midway the memorial stones
To which our Gilgal twelve upon the shore
Answer, as resurrection to the grave,—
The new-ris'n Sun upon the clouds which are
Its late-left bed, sheds its transfiguring rays
Till all the night of sorrow is transformed
From formless chaos into order fair,
And in each tear an orb of beauty shines.
The Son of God is glorified, and God
Is glorified in Him. There where so late
Our faith o'ershadowed fainted, following Him,
And could not follow,—there alone He stood
While on Him fell the flood of all our woes,
And on Him pressed the burden of our sins,
Self-made His own; and Wisdom's counsel-plans
And Justice' claims, and Love's dear purposes
Freighted the Ark of our salvation as,
Outriding all our woes, it bare us in,
Into the haven of eternal rest.
That cry of anguish, hush'd in joy forever,
Was but the travail pain of our new birth,
When out of human weakness power was born
In our behalf, and love came girded down
T' endear itself by lowliest services;
In manhood gaining power for sacrifice,
And loving us from enmity into love.
But yet no vain display nor meaningless
The fury of that storm which o'er Him rolled,
To which the Father's self must give His Son,
And which the Son of God perforce must suffer:
If He His harvest-sheaves would have from earth
The precious seed with weeping must be sown;
For sin had severed love from righteousness,
And stricken from its hand the power to save;
A righteous God awoke the heart to fear,
And not to worship; sin had changed the Lord
Our dear Creator to our Judge, and gift
We had not to appease, nor bribe to turn
The sentence Time was graving on our brows,
And sending down for sad Eternity
Sadly but unrepenting to confirm.
Death was our portion, darker than the grave,
Till into death the Shepherd of the sheep,
The Son of God and God-sent Son of man,
Stepped 'mid the breathless silence of the heavens
With love stronger than death, with zeal for God
As altar-fire consuming even Himself;
And there the sword that pierced a mother's heart
Reached unto His.
Reached, and made bare before the eye of God
While principalities and powers adored,
A human heart which only for Him moved,
Spring of a life which lived but by His word,
And where the flame of whole burnt-offering
Brought out but incense-savor unto God.
Nought was there there of blemish nor defect,
But piety that challenged answer,—love
That gave fresh argument to love. He cried,
And He was heard; the love and glory of God
Broke through the bands of darkness and of death
And resurrection from the dead proclaimed
That God had found a ransom.
And righteousness and peace have kissed each other,
The just God is the Saviour, and upon
The sinner's side, confessed but only that,
In every attribute united stands.
Grace reigns, and reigns through righteousness; and where
It had been death t' approach, th' atoning blood
Makes boldness but simplicity of faith.
A Father's house, a Father's tenderness,
A Father's watchful eye upon our path,—
His care, without whom not a sparrow falls,
And not a hair uncounted from our heads:—
These are our joys, and these our songs of praise,
As on the lighted path that leads to God
We walk, amid the glory of His face,
Unclouded and unsetting, evermore
Past shadow, evermore!
Thus the night passes and the day abides;
Out of the womb of sorrow comes our joy:
The painful lessons of the school of time
Become the wisdom of eternity.