The Disciple in the Wilderness

The Disciple in the Wilderness

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I Book II, following Poem VIII)

1

Of Dreariness

A solitary place—a heaven of brass,

Fierce, shining, pitiless:

For thy poor feet no sward of yielding grass.—
O’er rugged ways of iron must thou pass

In painfullest distress:

The very dews forget their tender power;
A smarting hail of dust, the only shower.

And Duty, barren Duty, all around,

As stones of iron, cold;

And Law, fierce, flawless Law, the dreary bound
That all thy heaven shuts in: nor gourd is found

Nor stream, nor sheltering fold;

No ease, no hope, no human love to bless
Thy faintings in this hungry wilderness.

But list, a voice,—sure, friendly is the tone,—

“Nay, hath God set thee here,

And doth He offer for thy meat a stone?
Then is it that He knows thy will alone

Can bid abundant cheer;

Abjure thy toils, sit soft, and take thine ease,
And, lo, these stones shall feed, this desert please!”

Hence, Charmer, wise as false, who know’st so well

With truth to trick thy tale!—

These stones in sooth yield meat to holy spell:
“Take thy tasks to thee, selfish aims expel—

Lo, comfort shall not fail!

Thy choice, as His, to do the Father’s will,—
Behold, the Word that bids is Bread to fill!”

2

Of Disappointment

A soul with folded powers
Sits cow’ring close: the hours
Hang heavy on the wing
As birds of night, nor sing
For joy, nor soar in hope,
Nor ask for any scope!
Since yesterday, how long—
As a forgotten song,
Familiar in old days,
Lost “long ago” shall raise,
And yet bring back no part
In the old stir of heart—
E’en thus is yesterday!
So wholly pass’d away!

O how one little cloud
A whole bright heaven may shroud!
How one unkindly smart
Shall desolate the heart!
Life’s promise hollow found,
How shifts the solid ground
From ’neath despairing feet!
What solace is there meet
When self stands prob’d and torn,
Of love and promise shorn?

The Kingdoms, ah, the Kingdoms!
The glory of the Kingdoms!—
A singing Voice shall soothe,
Soft promises shall smooth
Pride’s risen crest: behold,
For every brightness fled,
Some gaudier glory shed!
The poor self, stripp’d and scorned,
Stands graciously adorn’d
With beauty, praise, and power,
A very princely dower!
And all shall feel the glow;
Cold friends shall live to know,
To feel as fiery coals
Dropp’d on unloving souls,
The goodness from them cast,
The old love from them pass’d:—
Nay, living yet to bless
Through all unworthiness!—
With constancy divine
To pour a flood benign
Of benefits and graces
On the abashèd faces
So coldly turned away
From the sore need of to-day!
O singing Voice, how sweet!
O Comforter discreet,
Who know’st so apt a strain
To charm away the pain,
What guerdon for thee meet,
Thou singing Voice so sweet?
Soul list! another Word:—
“Trust not all spirits heard
In secret whispering thee,
But try them, whose they be.
They bid thee rule, the king
For whom the days shall bring
Their fulness? Trust them not:
There is a sweeter lot:
They name thee master? False are they;
Who lives, lives but to obey.
They bid thee serve? They are of Me,—
Their guiding follow’d, well is thee!

3

Of Isolation

All powers, all passions of a man,
Sure, entered the Almighty’s plan

(If God, indeed, Almighty be),

When first the race He did conceive
And made, and left us to achieve

Or fail, as nature should decree.

For nature makes one man a saint;
Another, feeble goes and faint,

And what hath God to do with each?

The strong man will accomplish all
His hand attempts, the weak will fall,

Whate’er of “grace” the churches teach.

Man stands alone, I say; his fate
Rests with him to improve; abate

Persistent evils in his blood;

Nourish such gifts as came at birth;
In strength of his own hand, go forth,

With nought to hope or fear from God.

If otherwise, why then, in fact,
God is accomplice in the act

Whereby a man may wreck his days.

If from some pinnacle he hurl
Health, fame, and fortune, in a whirl

Of passion, before the common gaze,—

Why, then, hath God so made the man
That his whole life he ruin can

By one rash act of reckless shame?

If there be God, and God be good,
Why shields He not His hapless brood

From vice, disaster, bitter blame?

Why have I senses, lusts, desires,
A heart to hate, mind that inquires,

And doubts, and asks, Yea, hath God said?

The power in me to err condemns
Whoever gave such power, nor stems

The ills that follow where I’m led.

Aye, led; doth not my nature lead,
And pride, and power, and lust succeed

In making me their willing thrall?

If God will have me, let Him save,
Prohibit me that ill I crave,

Nor give me any chance to fall!

······

Thou poor, proud soul, how ready, thou,
To make escape from God, show how

The fault is His when thou dost ill!

Were there no evil, where were good?
What praise for progress unwithstood?

If good compelled man, what of will?

Only those valiant souls who choose
To take the good, the ill refuse,

Nor pleasures seek, nor pains evade,

Are worthy to follow where He leads,
By waters cool, through flowery meads

Where innocent voices fill the glade!

Thou cri’st that “nature fixes fate,
No man becomes or good or great,

Save as his nature makes him strong”:

To will is all God asks of thee;
Impulse, strength, scope, He granteth free;

But man must choose, or right, or wrong!

Else men were puppets in a play
Moved hither, thither, every way

Without or strength to strive, or choice;

Perchance for this, the Accuser’s hour
To test the souls of men with power:—

For good or evil, is thy voice?

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