Godminster Chimes

A poem by James Russell Lowell


Godminster? Is it Fancy's play?
I know not, but the word
Sings in my heart, nor can I say
Whether 'twas dreamed or heard;
Yet fragrant in my mind it clings
As blossoms after rain,
And builds of half-remembered things
This vision in my brain.

Through aisles of long-drawn centuries
My spirit walks in thought,
And to that symbol lifts its eyes
Which God's own pity wrought;
From Calvary shines the altar's gleam,
The Church's East is there,
The Ages one great minster seem,
That throbs with praise and prayer.

And all the way from Calvary down
The carven pavement shows
Their graves who won the martyr's crown
And safe in God repose;
The saints of many a warring creed
Who now in heaven have learned
That all paths to the Father lead
Where Self the feet have spurned.

And, as the mystic aisles I pace,
By aureoled workmen built,
Lives ending at the Cross I trace
Alike through grace and guilt;
One Mary bathes the blessed feet
With ointment from her eyes,
With spikenard one, and both are sweet,
For both are sacrifice.

Moravian hymn and Roman chant
In one devotion blend,
To speak the soul's eternal want
Of Him, the inmost friend;
One prayer soars cleansed with martyr fire,
One choked with sinner's tears,
In heaven both meet in one desire,
And God one music hears.

Whilst thus I dream, the bells clash out
Upon the Sabbath air,
Each seems a hostile faith to shout,
A selfish form of prayer:
My dream is shattered, yet who knows
But in that heaven so near
These discords find harmonious close
In God's atoning ear?

O chime of sweet Saint Charity,
Peal soon that Easter morn
When Christ for all shall risen be,
And in all hearts new-born!
That Pentecost when utterance clear
To all men shall be given,
When all shall say My Brother here,
And hear My Son in heaven!

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