Visions.

A poem by Wilfred S. Skeats

I.

THE NEW RESOLVE.

Last night, as I sat in my study,
And thought o'er my lonely life,
I was seized with a passionate longing
To escape from the weary strife;

To flee far away from my fellows,
And far from the city's roar,
And seek on the boundless prairie
A balm for my burning sore--

The sore of the weary spirit,
The burn of the aching heart
Of him who has known true friendship--
Has known it--but only to part.

And I said in that hour of anguish:
"I will fly from the haunts of men,
And seek, in the bosom of Nature,
Relief from my ceaseless pain."

As lonely I sat, and thus pondered,
A voice seemed to speak in my ear;
And the sound of that voice was like music,
And its accents were mellow and clear:

"Weary soul, though all men have forsaken,
Thy God hath remembered thee still;
The sorrow and pain thou hast suffered
Are part of His infinite will.

"Sorrow not, though He call thee to suffer;
Evade not His righteous decree;
Be faithful, and live uncomplaining
The life He has ordered for thee;

"For God is thine infinite Father,
His purpose is all for the best.
Fight bravely, for after the battle
He giveth thee comfort and rest."

And the sound of that voice was like music,
And its accents were mellow and clear;
No longer I felt I was lonely,
For I knew that my Father was near.

And as I sat silent, and pondered,
My sorrow all vanished away;
My strength was "renewed like the eagle's"
And I longed for the breaking of day.

That again I might join in Life's battle,
And fight with a strength not my own,
Till my foes should be vanquished and scattered,
My enemies all overthrown.

For thus would I silence all scoffers,
And show them, by deed and by word,
How strong is the faith of a Christian,
How mighty the arm of the Lord.


II.

THE HIGHER DUTY.

I saw the sun. He shone in splendour bright,
Casting his radiance over dale and hill;
And all creation joyed to see his light:
He shone, and thus fulfilled his Master's will.

I saw the moon and stars. They gave their light
To guide the sailor o'er the trackless sea,
To show the traveller his path by night:
They shone, fulfilling all their Lord's decree.

I looked to earth, and saw the plants and trees,
Each growing fitly to the pattern made,
And yielding proper flowers and fruits. And these
All grew, and thus their Master's will obeyed.

I looked around, and saw my fellow-men,
Created by the same Almighty hand;
A higher destiny was granted them--
To rule the earth, obeying His command.

And, as I looked, the vision grew less bright,
And only through the darkness could I see
That, in their power and God-given might,
Men ruled, fulfilling half their Lord's decree.

Here was much chaos and confusion still;
And here no perfect concord seemed to be.
Each lived as best accorded with his will:
Men ruled, all heedless of their Lord's decree.

And, as I looked, deep sorrow filled my heart;
"Oh man!" I cried, "in God's own image made,
Shall sun, and moon, and trees, all do their part,
And thou alone fall short and retrograde?

"Thou--greatest of all God's created things!
Thou--ruler, by His order, of the earth!
Shake off thy sin, and, on aspiring wings,
Rise! and be worthy of thy glorious birth."

I cried; and from the darkness forth there came
A voice, which said in harsh and mocking tone:
"Dost thou possess so undefiled a name,
Art thou, amongst thy fellows, good alone,

"That thou shouldst vilify thy fellow-men?
Thou art not innocent nor free from guile--
Thou too art man. Go, nor return again,
Sinful, thy fellow-sinners to revile."

It ceased. But, as I turned to join the strife,
In milder accents spake that voice again:
"An humble heart, a pure and useful life--
And not vain words--will raise thy fellow-men."


III.

THE HIDDEN PURPOSE.

I was weary and faint with temptation and trial,
For the prayers I had made had but met with denial,
And the slow-coming doubt, which had once hardly found
In my heart a mean place, was now strong and profound.

And my soul was in anguish, for suffering keen,
And intense disappointment, too often had been
New prepared for my portion, till now, as I lay
By new sorrow re-stung, all my faith passed away.

Then a curse on my lips rose, and darkly I swore
That the God who had led me should lead me no more;
His existence was doubtful, but, if He should be,
He had been but a God of vindiction to me.

So I vowed that henceforward the path that I trod
Should be chosen by me, and not ordered by God;
And relief seemed to greet my resolve as I lay,
All in sleeplessness, waiting the breaking of day.

But as quiet I lay, and thought o'er my decision,
All my wakefulness passed, and I saw in a vision,
By my side standing closely, an Angel of Light,
Clothed in shining apparel resplendently bright.

And I lay there all trembling in fear as I lay,
Till with beckoning finger he led me away;
Then I rose and went forth in the darkness of night,
And, still trembling, I followed that Angel of Light.

And I followed him on till he paused in his flight
Where a Christian lay sleeplessly passing the night;
And I heard him repeat as he lay on his bed,
"My paths are divided, Lord, which shall I tread?"

And I saw that the one led to glory and fame,
While the other fulfilled not his heart-cherished aim;
But the scales of mortality darkened his eye,
And the thing I saw plainly he could not descry.

Then the Angel breathed o'er him, and light seemed to break
O'er his soul, and he saw then the path he should take.
Then his spirit was eased, and sweet sleep o'er him came,
For he thought this would lead him to glory and fame.

But I saw that the path he had chosen that day
Would lead him from glory and fame far away;
But I saw, too, that, were he not led in this path,
The love of the world would have shaken his faith.

For his pride, swelling high in the glory of gain,
Would have led him from God to things sinful and vain.
But his trouble would lead him to God now for rest;
And I saw that the plan of his Maker was best.

Then the Angel went forth, and I followed him still,
Thus impelled by the force of his Heavenly will,
Till he stayed where two lovers stood breathing their vows,
With the fondness that love and deep passion arouse.

Then he put forth his hand, and he pointed in wrath;
And the fever-fiend rose with a horrible laugh.
But the man felt him not as he poisoned his blood,
And the woman saw nought as still smiling she stood.

But I knew that that meeting was surely their last,
For the shadow of death on the man was now cast.
And my heart could but pity the woman, whose pain
I yet knew would redound to her infinite gain.

For deception and falsity deep in the heart
Of the man were writ large, and there truth had no part;
And the pain of her mourning was nought when compared
With the agony he would have caused her, if spared.

Quickly onward then hasted the Angel of God,
And I still followed close in the steps that he trod;
And I saw, when his flight was arrested again,
That we stood where an infant lay tossing in pain.

And the mother, with tear-laden eyes, kneeling there,
Sought relief from her trouble in heart-broken prayer,
As she cried unto God, in a piteous tone,
That He would not deny her the life of her son.

And the Angel himself breathed a sorrowful sigh,
And I thought that a tear glistened bright in his eye,
As he stretched forth his hand, and commanded the soul
Of the child to ascend to its Heavenly goal.

Then I heard a loud cry of distress on the air,
And I saw the lone mother lie grief-stricken there;
And the tears of compassion flowed fast from my eyes,
Though I knew that God's action was kindly and wise.

For disease on the child had imprinted its stain,
And his life would have been but a long-endured pain,
Had his Father not early exerted His might,
And thus called the young soul to the Kingdom of Light.

Then the scene seemed to melt in the darkness away,
And again on the couch in my chamber I lay.
And the Angel of God by my side again stood;
And he gazed on me sadly and said, "God is good."

Then I saw him no more, but with morn I awoke
And remembered the words that the Angel had spoke;
And the scenes of the vision, repictured again,
Passed before me, and brought me a balm for my pain.

For I knew that my God had not called me in vain
To temptation and trial, and I would not complain;
But with gladness I went forth anew to the strife,
Knowing now that my Father was guiding my life.

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