Unpardoned

A poem by John Frederick Freeman

Gentle as the air that kisses
The splendid and ignoble with one breath,
Gentle as obliterating Death--
Though you be gentler yet,
In days when the old, old things begin to fret
The backward-looking consciousness,
Will you forget?
Or if remembering, will you forgive?

But there is one severer.
Stung by your forgivingness so great
Shall I forgive you then?--
Basest of men
Would rise in bitterness and sting again.
Not if you should forget
Could I forget:
Or if remembering, myself could I forgive?

Never! And yet such things have been,
And ills as dark forgiven or forgot.
But in those black hours when the heart burns hot
And there's no nerve that's not
Quick with the sense of things unheard, unseen--
A terrible voice that's mine yet not mine cries,
"Can that Eternal Righteousness
Remembering forgive?"

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