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SONNETS OF SORROW

I

PRAYING for light, and praying all in vain,
Since not one lamp was shining in God’s tower ;
Praying for strength to bear consuming pain,
Yet growing weaker with each passing hour ;
Praying for hope the while relentless Fate
Marked out hope’s grave, and dug it dark and deep,
My trembling lips at last could formulate
Only a prayer for sleep—forgetting sleep.
That plea was answered. From her silent place
Sleep came and touched me with oblivion :
Yet was that touch robbed of all healing grace :
For when she rose up in the awful dawn
She left but this in answer to my prayer—
New strength to suffer with renewed despair.


II

I know my heart has always been devout,
And faith burned in me like a clear white flame,
There was no room among my thoughts for doubt,
Though hopes were thwarted and though sorrows came,
God seemed a living Presence, kind and just
And ever near. Yea, even in great grief
When parents, friends and offspring turn to dust
He stood beside me, refuge and relief.
But when one hideous night you went away
Deaf to my cry and to my pleadings dumb,
You took God with you. Now in vain I pray
And beg Him to return: He does not come:
Nor has He sent one Angel from his horde
To comfort me with some convincing word.


III

You were so wonderful with quiet faith;
Only the Saints and martyrs of the earth
Held such unalterable high thoughts of death,
As those which filled you from your hour of birth.
And when we were together, many a time,
We felt the Presences of Unseen Guests:
And you saw visions, mystical, sublime,
Where forth your spirit went on astral quests.
Yet at the crucial hour when you were called
To leave me here, there was no sign---no sign!
God surely saw me stricken and appalled--
Surely He might have eased such woe as mine.
Oh! fling my failing faith some bit of fuel,
Lest God shall seem or impotent, or cruel!


IV

My earthly friends, however occupied,
With their own joys or troubles, came or sent
Some sympathetic message! Each one tried
To soothe the heart by sudden anguished rent.
But from that Higher Realm where you have flown
And from that God we worshipped well and long,
There comes no signal that my need is known---
No spirit whisper bidding me be strong.
God has so many angels, realm or realm
Of varying rand and knowledge and degree:
Could he not lend just one to take the helm
And guide through space a spirit-ship to me?
A thousand human hearts my grief has stirred:
My God, my Robert, why have you no word?



V

You understood the woman side of me ;
My vanities you met with smiling lip ;
The fabrics that I wore you first see,
And pass upon them with wise censorship.
You loved things not too sombre or too bright,
But tender toned with colours softly blent ;
Yet, when I leaned above you, draped like night,
You were unmindful and indifferent.
One sigh of mine, one tear upon my face,
Wrenched your dear heart with sympathetic grief.
Yet, when I held you in that last embrace,
Torn with a torture which found no relief,
You lay and smiled with such a knowing air
Of mighty peace as if you did not care.


VI

My love, my love, how often in old days
I cried, "Oh, I would die for you, dear heart!"
But He who planned the parting of our ways
Appointed unto me the harder part.
He cares not greatly for my thanks, I wis,
But in your converse with Him (which must be,
Since that, only that, accounts for this
Astounding silence between you and me),
Say that from out a life all bruised and broken
In grief too deep for tears to do their share,
My prayers of gratitude are hourly spoken
Because He saved you from the cross I bear.
Such grievous pain, such unrelenting woe---
You never could have borne it, dear, I know.


VII

This thought I welcome only, of the train
That drove joy from its hive within my breast,
Turned honey into gall, turned peace to pain
And sent hope forth upon a bootless quest.
This thought alone brings comfort to my mind,
And so is bidden often to return,
And ease the hurts that hour by hour I find
In sounds that torture and in sights that burn.
Old airs, old scenes, old anniversaries
(Oh, life for us was Love's long carnival)
And I repeat, "I save you this and this,"
As on each sword of memory I fall.
To save you sorrow was my prayer alway,
But oh, the price, the price I have to pay.



VIII

At last a dream—at last a dream of you !
Against the black black curtain of the night
I saw you stand. ’Twas but a dream, I knew,
And yet my hungry eyes fed on the sight,
My aching arms embraced you, and I cried,
“How good, how good God is to let you come
And bridge the chasm that has seemed so wide!”
You listened smiling, but you lips were dumb.
And then you vanished. All alone I stood
(as evermore I stand, alone, apart)
Repeating softly, “God was good, so good,
To let me dream of you,” Oh, ravenous heart,
How pitiful, how pitiful it seems
To feed such hunger with but husks of dreams !


IX

From land to land, from coast to bloody coast,
Our planet trembles with loud sounds of strife.
The seas are ravaged by a warring host,
The air is filled with menaces to life.
Men talk of nothing but the news of war ;
And with the coming of each crimson dawn
Come new calamities and horrors, for
Events are shaped by what minds feed upon.
As in a nightmare, we unheeding hear
That which awake would fill us with affright.
The woes of earth fall dully on mine ear,
Nor am I moved by its appalling plight.
For all these things seem trivial beside
This monstrous fact—one night in May you died.


X

My sick and suffering heart is newly stricken
When Night departs and Dawn adjusts its robe.
As some poor wounded wretch might sink and sicken
Seeing the surgeon bare his shining probe,
The sun was loth this morning to awaken;
It held its radiance back and seemed to wait
As if it knew my joy had all been taken
And one long day would fain abbreviate.
Then in that little pause as if from heaven
This message flashed authoritative, brief:
"What boundless wealth of love to you was given---
How vast the joy whose loss could mean such grief!"
All through the day with lifted brow I went
A pauper now, who once was opulent!


XI

"What boundless wealth of love!" The sentence stays
And lends wan lustre to each leaded hour.
I am as one who in bleak autumn days
Recalls the beauty of his rose-wreathed bower.
I am as one who in the desert sands
Must slake his thirst on thoughts of running streams.
Or mid the ruins of his palace stands
And reconstructs it with the stuff of dreams.
That boundless wealth of ours! My own, my own,
It could not vanish into nothingness.
God must have made a strong-box of His throne,
And store it there, our future lives to bless.
Oh, my first words, when death has set me free,
Will be this cry, "The key, dear God, the key!"


XII

If, till we met, no Maker had existed,
If life was finite and man but a clod,
This flaming love of ours has so persisted
Its very glory would have made a God.
It was too vast for love of man and woman,
Too high for earth, too might for the tomb;
It grew up over and beyond ways human,
And sought a garden of perpetual bloom.
Long, long ago, we sensed that garden's beauty,
And talked together of its pure delight.
How is it now you feel no urge of duty,
To help my straining vision gain its sight?
How is it that, although I gaze and hark,
I find but deathly silence--and the dark?


XIII

We scaled all heights, we probed all depths of passion;
Soul spoke to soul and flesh thrilled unto flesh.
Our love rose from the senses, lotus fashion,
And bloomed in sun-kissed air and waters fresh.
We sailed our ship through many a stormy ocean,
But came to anchor in a Bay Serene
Where in an exaltation of devotion
We grasped the fullness of what love may mean.
Oh! Was it that we two, again united
Debt free, throughout eternity might go,
That my crushed heart by separation blighted
Was forced the final sacrifice to know?
God needs must make new ecstasies in heaven
To pay for this last anguish He has given!


XIV

Full many a roadway that we trod was rough,
And we met foul as well as sunny weather;
Yet not one day did we find long enough
Though three decades we journeyed on together.
Even when shadows on our path were cast
And when with care or grief we were sad-hearted.
Too soon each sunset came, time fled too fast,
And dear nights of sleep too soon departed.
Now all the moments move with leaden feet,
The hours are weighted with their load of sorrow;
And the once tender night that were so fleet
Stare through the dark and dread the coming morrow.
And at each laggard sunset now I say,
"Nearer Death's gate, thank God, by one more day!"


XV

Loving you so I loved the world entire,
Your friends, your kin, yea, all created life,
My heart seemed glowing with a holy fire
And every thought with tenderness was rife.
I sought to lighten sorrows and to teach
The ecstasy of life to every being;
And prayed for greater usefulness to reach
And share my insight with each soul unseening.
But since you went away from earth with Death
I seem to have no feeling left to give,
Save sharp surprise toward all things that have breath
Which cries in wonderment, "You live! You live!"
Ignoble satisfaction adds this cry,
"To all, to all shall Death come by and by."






XVI

Oh, to wake once again with that old joy,
That consciousness of angels hovering near !
Oh, for a shaft of light that would destroy
This dark despondency, this nameless fear !
My radiant thought had never given form
Or substance to those two unbidden things ;
Yet in that night of devastating storm,
Bat-like they came on black and brooding wings.
My mind has lost its optimistic course
And sunk in quicksands of despair and gloom,
Nor have my wildest prayers the drawing force
To lift me back to sunlight and to bloom.
Oh, Everlasting Arms, reach out, reach out,
Before I sink in madness, or in doubt!



XVII

I who have sung so loud of God's great power,
I who have loved Him with unswerving love,
Cry vainly now, hour after torturing hour,
And no response comes from those planes above.
I deemed myself a joyous instrument
Finite in form but infinite in scope;
In life's grand orchestra my tones were blent
Ever in strains of gratitude and hope.
Now as a harp all broken and unstrung
Of which the Heavenly Players have grown weary
And carelessly upon the highway flung
Where vagrant winds may sing a miserere,
I lie with all the music in my dumb, . . .
Oh, great Repairer and Attuner, come!


XVIII

The wise ones tell me that my heart's wild clamour
Must change to calm before I feel you near.
While Pain beats on it with its hob-nailed hammer,
How can I find the way to quiet, dear?
I sit down in the silence praying, praying
"God's Will be done, but give me help at length."
I wait, but Pain, that mighty hammer swaying,
Deprives the silence of all healing strength.
Then when I turn to action, swift and cruel
Leaps Memory in my path and bids me stand,
And challenges my bleeding heart to duel,
Knowing how I must suffer at its hand.
Oh, my Beloved, let this conflict cease
And show me how to find the path to peace.


XIX

Full sixteen thousand million souls are here
Upon the earth, and yet not one or all
Can rouse my old-time pleasure in this sphere
Or from my shrouded heart remove the pall.
But could I see you face or hear your voice
For one brief moment, dear, or touch your hand
Then would I wake to rapture and rejoice
Though death and devastation filled the land.
I knew I loved you; but life made not plain
How utterly you were my world entire
Until I stood alone and tried in vain
To find diversion, interest, or desire.
Bereft of you, I am of all bereft,
While sixteen thousand million souls are left.

XX

There always was a longing in your heart
For some large labour that should aid mankind.
Dear, listen to me, let me do my part
And help you now that wondrous work to find.
There is but one great need for all the race--
The need of knowledge to uphold its faith.
Then come, or send some message on through space
That shall convince the world there is no death.
In all God's universe there could not be
A holier task, methinks, for any soul.
Oh, not alone to case the heart of me,
But to give consolation to the whole
Sick, suffering hordes of earth, stand not aloof
But cleave the silence with the proof the proof!


XXI

So many mansions in our Father's house,
So many paths that lead out onward There,
Perchance when first from slumber we arouse
We must for longer journeyings prepare.
I do recall a time you went before
To build a home on earth for me one day:
And when you passed out through the open door
I did not try to hinder or delay.
But I remember how your message
Sped over space and made the dull hours glow.
Is there no way to solace me in this
Increasing loneliness that hurts me so
This silence utter, awful, and profound
Which bruises more than any crash of sound?



XXII

Wild sorrow in my bosom has been raging
Wild war has torn the earth and stained the water.
From homes of peace have men gone forth engaging
In bitter conflict and in bloody slaughter.
Women have sent their loved ones out, believing
The way was shown them by God's pointing finger;
They smiled farewell and hid all signs of grieving,
And sped the footsteps that were fain to linger.
For you, beloved, to whom God has beckoned,
What have I done to help you find the road?
With my own anguish only have I reckoned
On your dear spirit have I placed my load.
Now will I lift and bear it to the end
Unto your Father's place ascend, ascend.
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