To Man in haste, flushed with impatient dreams
Of some great thing to do, so slowly done,
The long delay of Time all idle seems,
Idle the lordly leisure of the sun;
So splendid his design, so brief his span,
For all the faith with which his heart is burning,
He marvels, as he builds each shining plan,
That heaven's wheel should be so long in turning,
And God more slow in righteousness than Man.
Evil on evil mock him all about,
And all the forces of embattled wrong,
There are so many devils to cast out -
Save God be with him, how shall Man be strong?
With his own heart at war, to weakness prone,
And all the honeyed ways of joyous sinning,
How in this welter shall he hold his own,
And, single-handed, e'er have hopes of winning?
How shall he fight God's battle all alone?
He hath no lightnings in his puny hand,
Nor starry servitors to work his will,
Only his soul and his strong purpose planned,
His dream of goodness and his hate of ill;
He, but a handful of the eddying dust,
At the wind's fancy shaped, from nowhere blowing;
A moment man - then, with another gust,
A formless vapour into nowhere going,
Even as he dreams back into darkness thrust.
O so at least it seems - if life were his
A little longer! grant him thrice his years,
And God should see a better world than this,
Pure for the foul, and laughter for the tears:
So fierce a flame to burn the dross away
Dreams in his spark of life so swiftly fleeing:
If Man can do so much in one short day,
O strange it seems that an Eternal Being
Should in his purposes so long delay.
Easy to answer - lo! the unfathomed time
Gone ere each small perfection came to flower,
Ere soul shone dimly in the wastes of slime;
Wouldst thou turn Hell to Heaven in an hour?
Easy to say - God's purposes are long,
His ways and wonders far beyond our knowing,
He hath mysterious ministers even in wrong,
Sure is His harvest, though so long His sowing:
So say old poets with persuasive tongue.
And yet - and yet - it seems some swifter doom
From so august a hand might surely fall,
And all earth's rubbish in one flash consume,
And make an end of evil once for all . . .
But vain the questions and the answers vain,
Who knows but Man's impatience is God's doing?
Who knows if evil be so swiftly slain?
Be sure none shall escape, with God pursuing.
Question no more - but to your work again!