The Gate

A poem by William Arthur Dunkerley

"A little child shall lead them."


I trod an arduous way, but came at last
To where the city walls rose fair and white
Above the darkening plain,--a goodly sight.
And eagerly, while yet a great way off,
My eyes did seek the Gates--the Great White Gates
That close not ever, day or night, but stand
Wide as the love of Christ that opened them.
But nought could I discern of gate or breach,
The wall stood flawless far as eye could reach.

"But when I drew in closer to the wall,
I saw a lowly portal, strait and small;
So small, a man might hardly enter there,
Low-browed and shadowed, and close-pressed to earth--
A very needle's eye--scarce visible.
I looked and wondered. Could this trivial way
Be the sole entrance to the light of day?
And as I stood perplext, a clear voice cried,--
Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."

And while I stood in doubt, there came along
One of earth's mighty ones--a conqueror
Of Kings. He looked for gates that should swing wide
To meet his high estate and welcome him.
He stood and gazed, then raised his voice and cried,
"My work on earth is done. I would within,"
And from the City wall the voice replied,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
He stood perplext, then set himself to wait,
Till Might should help him to discern the Gate.

Another came,--a man of mind so rare,
He scarce had breathed the common earthly air.
Knowledge was his, and wisdom so profound,
All things he knew in heaven and earth. No bound
To his accomplishment, until he sought
The great wide-opened Gate,--and found it not.
He stood perplext, and then cried wearily,
"Pray give me entrance. I am done with earth."
And from the City wall the clear voice cried,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
He looked in vain, then set himself to wait,
Till Wisdom should direct him to the gate.

I saw a woman come, noble and fair,
And pure of heart, and in her goodly deeds
More richly robed than Fashion's fairest queen.
And to myself I said,--"Surely for her
A way will open that she may go in!"
She said no word, but stood and looked upon
The shining walls, with eyes that answering shone.
And from the City wall the clear voice cried,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
She looked in vain, then set herself to wait,
Till Love should help her to discern the Gate.

And one there came, with clear keen face--a Judge
Of men on earth, and famed for fearless truth.
His robes were stainless and his heart was clean.
"Entrance I crave," he cried, "to well-earned rest,--
And mercy-tempered justice and no more."
And from the City wall the clear voice cried,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
He looked in vain, then set himself to wait
Till Judgment should direct him to the Gate.

And one there came, sad-eyed, his brow still raw
From pressure of an earthly crown. He too
Sought glorious entrance through wide-opened gates,
And stood perplext. He had borne well his part,
And served his people and his God, and died
The Martyr's death, and yet he found no gate.
"I fain would rest," he cried. "My life has been
One ceaseless striving. I would enter in."
And from the City wall the clear voice cried,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
Perplext he stood, then set himself to wait,
Till Patient Waiting should discern the Gate.

And one who had had riches beyond most,
And yet subserved them to his Master's good,
Came searching for the heavenly gates, and stood
Amazed to find no opening in the walls.
"I gave of all I had," he cried, "and held
Nought as my own,--yet entrance is denied."
And from the City wall the clear voice cried,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
He stood perplext, then set himself to wait
Till Charity should point him to the Gate.

And many more there were who entrance craved,
And sought the Great White Gates, and stood perplext.
And ever, from within, the clear voice cried,--
"Come! Enter in! The Gate is open wide."
They sought in vain, and set themselves to wait
Till Light was given them to discern the Gate.

And then--a child in white came carolling
Along the arduous road we all had trod.
He stopped and looked, then laughed with childish glee,--
"Why wait ye here without? Come, follow me!"--
And passed, scarce bending, through the lowly door,--
We heard his singing,--him we saw no more.

The woman stooped and looked, with eyes that shone,
Into the doorway where the child had gone;
Then loosed her robes and dropped, and in a shift
Of pure white samite, on her hands and knees
She crept into the doorway and was gone,
And we stood gazing at the way she went.

And, one by one, they followed. First the Judge
Laid by his robes, and bowed him to the ground,
And followed--where the little child had led.
And he whose brow had borne that weighty crown
Bent low and followed,--where the little child had led.
And he who knew so much of earthly things
Discarded them, and, on his hands and knees,
Crept through the doorway,--where the little child had led.
And he of riches laid him in the dust
And followed,--where the little child had led.
And, last of all, the War Lord cast aside
His victor's wreaths, and all his pomp and pride,
And followed,--where the little child had led.
And, groping through my fears, I bowed my head
And followed,--where the little child had led.

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