Exeunt

A poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon

HELEN RABY.

Where the grave-deeps rot, where the grave-dews rust,
They dug, crying, “Earth to earth”,
Crying, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust”,
And what are my poor prayers worth?
Upon whom shall I call, or in whom shall I trust,
Though death were indeed new birth.

And they bid me be glad for my baby’s sake
That she suffered sinless and young,
Would they have me be glad when my breasts still ache
Where that small, soft, sweet mouth clung?
I am glad that the heart will so surely break
That has been so bitterly wrung.

He was false, they tell me, and what if he were?
I can only shudder and pray,
Pouring out my soul in a passionate prayer
For the soul that he cast away;
Was there nothing that once was created fair
In the potter’s perishing clay?

Is it well for the sinner that souls endure?
For the sinless soul is it well?
Does the pure child lisp to the angels pure?
And where does the strong man dwell,
If the sad assurance of priests be sure,
Or the tale that our preachers tell?

The unclean has follow’d the undefiled,
And the ill may regain the good,
And the man may be even as the little child!
We are children lost in the wood,
Lord! lead us out of this tangled wild,
Where the wise and the prudent have been beguil’d,
And only the babes have stood.

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