Service

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I passed a cottage 'twixt the town and wood,
And marked its garden, blossoming bright and bold,
And breathing many a scent. Awhile I stood
Near pink and marigold.

It seemed a place of prayer; of love and peace;
Where gray Content with children at his knees,
Like blessings manifold,
Rested among the trees.

An old man came into the garden-plot;
And 'mid the tansy and the scarlet sage
Found for himseft a dim and quiet spot
Wherein to turn a page:

For in his hand he bore a well-thumbed book,
Upon whose pages now and then he'd look;
And then, as if with age,
His hoary head he shook.

I said to him:"You have a lovely place.
How rich your garden blooms! How sweet its shade!
How good to sit here in the eve and face
Those hills of woods while fade.

The sunset's splendors like a bannered host
Before the glory of the Holy Ghost,
While Dusk, in light arrayed,
Takes up his starry post."

The old man smiled, and turned around to stare
Not at me but above my head, as if
He saw a form, a flying phantom there,
A flaming hippogriff:

Then said, "You find here what I keep in mind
Thoughts thoughts of beauty with which God is kind
To an old man grown stiff
And half-way deaf and blind.

"This garden, now, in every herb and flower,
Expresses what the Bible says in part.
Unto my soul: To serve God every hour,
In thought, or through some art,

With loveliness: as men did long ago,
Work at some beauty that shall gleam and glow
With worship of the heart,
Whose dream shall burn below.

"For men may serve God in their humblest works:
In gardens, say, like mine; wherein the Word
Walks with me, and in every rosebush lurks
"God's blessing like a bird."

And so he ceased. And, like the Seraphim,
The sunset clouds spread golden over him;
And in the trees I heard,
The wind, like some far hymn.

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