In the far forest, overhead,
A bell is often heard obscurely;
How long since first, no one can tell--
Nor can report explain it surely:
From the lost church, the rumour hath,
Out on the winds the ringing goeth;
Once full of pilgrims was the path--
Now where to find it, no one knoweth.
Deep in the wood I lately went
Where no foot-trodden way is lying;
From times corrupt, on evil bent,
My heart to God went out in sighing:
There, in the wild wood's deep repose,
I heard the ringing somewhat nearer;
The higher that my longing rose
Its peal grew fuller and came clearer.
My thoughts upon themselves did brood;
My sense was with the sound so busy
That I have never understood
How I did climb that steep so dizzy.
It seemed more than a hundred years
Had passed me over, dreaming, sighing--
When far above the clouds appears
An open space in sunlight lying.
Dark-blue the heavens above it bowed;
The sun was radiant, large, and glowing;
And, see, a minister's structure proud
Stood in the rich light, golden showing.
The clouds around it, sunny-clear,
Seemed bearing it aloft like pinions;
Its spire-point seemed to disappear,
Slow vanishing in heaven's dominions.
The bell's clear tones, of rapture full,
Boomed in the tower and made it quiver;
No mortal hand that rope did pull--
A dumb storm made it swing and shiver.
It seemed to heave my throbbing breast,
That heavenly storm with torrent blended:
With wavering step, yet hopeful quest,
Into the church my way I wended.
What met me there as in I trode
With syllables cannot be painted;
Darksome yet clear, the windows glowed
With forms of all the martyrs sainted.
Then saw I, radiantly unfurled,
Form swell to life and break its barriers;
I looked abroad into a world
Of holy women and God's warriors.
Down at the alter I kneeled soft,
With love and prayer my heart allegiant:
Upon the ceiling, far aloft,
Was painted Heaven's resplendent pageant;
But when again I lift mine eyes,
Lo, the high vault has flown asunder!
The upward gate wide open lies,
And every veil unveils a wonder.
What gloriousness I then beheld
With silent worship, speechless wonder;
What blessed sounds upon me swelled,
Like organs' and like trumpets' thunder--
No human words could ever tell!--
But who for such is sighing sorest,
Let him give heed unto the bell
That dimly soundeth in the forest.