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Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier
Read before the Alumni of the Friends' Yearly Meeting School, at the Annual Meeting at Newport, R. I., 15th 6th mo., 1863.
Once more, dear friends, you meet beneath A clouded sky: Not yet the sword has found its sheath, And on the sweet spring airs the breath Of war floats by Yet trouble springs not from the ground, Nor pain from chance; The eternal order circles round, And wave and storm find mete and bound In Providence. Full long our feet the flowery ways Of peace have trod, Content with creed and garb and phrase: A harder path in earlier days Led up to God Too cheaply truths, once purchased dear, Are made our own, Too long the world has smiled to hear Our boast of full corn in the ear By others sown; To see us stir the martyr fires Of long ago, And wrap our satisfied desires In the singed mantles that our sires Have dropped below. But now the cross our worthies bore On us is laid; Profession's quiet sleep is o'er, And in the scale of truth once more Our faith is weighed. The cry of innocent blood at last Is calling down An answer in the whirlwind-blast, The thunder and the shadow cast From Heaven's dark frown. The land is red with judgments. Who Stands guiltless forth? Have we been faithful as we knew, To God and to our brother true, To Heaven and Earth? How faint, through din of merchandise And count of gain, Have seemed to us the captive's cries! How far away the tears and sighs Of souls in pain! This day the fearful reckoning comes To each and all; We hear amidst our peaceful homes The summons of the conscript drums, The bugle's call. Our path is plain; the war-net draws Round us in vain. While, faithful to the higher Cause, We keep our fealty to the laws Through patient pain. The levelled gun, the battle brand, We may not take: But, calmly loyal, we can stand And suffer with our suffering land For consience' sake. Why ask for ease where all is pain? Shall we alone Be left to add our gain to gain, When over Armageddon's plain The trump is blown? To suffer well is well to serve; Safe in our Lord The rigid lines of law shall swerve Its smiting sword. And light is mingled with the gloom, And joy with grief; Divinest compensations come, Through thorns of judgment mercies bloom In sweet relief. Thanks for our privilige to bless, By word and deed, The widow in her keen distress, The children and the fatherless, The hearts that bleed! For fields of duty, opening wide, Where all our powers Are tasked the eager steps to guide Of millions on a path untried: The slave is ours! Ours by traditions dear and old Which make the race Our wards to cherish and uphold, And cast their freedom in the mould Of Christian grace. And we may tread the sick-bed floors Where strong men pine, And, down the corridors, Pour freely from our liberal stores The oil and wine. Who murmurs that in these dark days His lot is cast? God's hand within the shadow lays The stones whereon HIs gates of praise Shall rise at last. Turn and o'erturn, O outstretched Hand! Nor stint, nor stay; The years have never dropped their sand On mortal issue vast and grand As ours to-day. Already, on the sable ground Of man's despair Is Freedom's glorious picture found, With all its dusky hands unbound Upraised in prayer. Oh, small shall seem all sacrifice And pain and loss, When God shall wipe the weeping eyes, For suffering give the victor's prize, The crown for cross!
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier's other poems:
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