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Supposed Confessions of a
Second-Rate Sensitive Mind

         
      O God! my God! have mercy now.
      I faint, I fall. Men say that Thou
      Didst die for me, for such as me,
      Patient of ill, and death, and scorn,
      And that my sin was as a thorn
      Among the thorns that girt Thy brow,
      Wounding Thy soul.–That even now,
      In this extremest misery
      Of ignorance, I should require
      A sign! and if a bolt of fire
      Would rive the slumbrous summer noon
      While I do pray to Thee alone,
      Think my belief would stronger grow!
      Is not my human pride brought low?
      The boastings of my spirit still?
      The joy I had in my free-will
      All cold, and dead, and corpse-like grown?
      And what is left to me but Thou,
      And faith in Thee? Men pass me by;
      Christians with happy countenances–
      And children all seem full of Thee!
      And women smile with saint-like glances
      Like Thine own mother’s when she bow’d
      Above Thee, on that happy morn
      When angels spake to men aloud,
      And Thou and peace to earth were born.
      Good-will to me as well as all–
      I one of them; my brothers they;
      Brothers in Christ–a world of peace
      And confidence, day after day;
      And trusts and hope till things should cease,
      And then one Heaven receive us all.

      How sweet to have a common faith!
      To hold a common scorn of death!
      And at a burial to hear
      The creaking cords which wound and eat
      Into my human heart, whene’er
      Earth goes to earth, with grief, not fear,
      With hopeful grief, were passing sweet!

      Thrice happy state again to be
      The trustful infant on the knee,
      Who lets his rosy fingers play
      About his mother’s neck, and knows
      Nothing beyond his mother’s eyes!
      They comfort him by night and day;
      They light his little life alway;
      He hath no thought of coming woes;
      He hath no care of life or death;
      Scarce outward signs of joy arise,
      Because the Spirit of happiness
      And perfect rest so inward is;
      And loveth so his innocent heart,
      Her temple and her place of birth,
      Where she would ever wish to dwell,
      Life of the fountain there, beneath
      Its salient springs, and far apart,
      Hating to wander out on earth,
      Or breathe into the hollow air,
      Whose chillness would make visible
      Her subtil, warm, and golden breath,
      Which mixing with the infant’s blood,
      Fulfils him with beatitude.
      O, sure it is a special care
      Of God, to fortify from doubt,
      To arm in proof, and guard about
      With triple-mailed trust, and clear
      Delight, the infant’s dawning year.

      Would that my gloomed fancy were
      As thine, my mother, when with brows
      Propt on thy knees, my hands upheld
      In thine, I listen’d to thy vows,
      For me outpour’d in holiest prayer–
      For me unworthy!–and beheld
      Thy mild deep eyes upraised, that knew
      The beauty and repose of faith,
      And the clear spirit shining thro’.
      O, wherefore do we grow awry
      From roots which strike so deep? why dare
      Paths in the desert? Could not I
      Bow myself down, where thou hast knelt,
      To the earth–until the ice would melt
      Here, and I feel as thou hast felt?
      What devil had the heart to scathe
      Flowers thou hadst rear’d–to brush the dew
      From thine own lily, when thy grave
      Was deep, my mother, in the clay?
      Myself? Is it thus? Myself? Had I
      So little love for thee? But why
      Prevail’d not thy pure prayers? Why pray
      To one who heeds not, who can save
      But will not? Great in faith, and strong
      Against the grief of circumstance
      Wert thou, and yet unheard. What if
      Thou pleadest still, and seest me drive
      Thro’ utter dark a full-sail’d skiff,
      Unpiloted i’ the echoing dance
      Of reboant whirlwinds, stooping low
      Unto the death, not sunk! I know
      At matins and at evensong,
      That thou, if thou wert yet alive,
      In deep and daily prayers wouldst strive
      To reconcile me with thy God.
      Albeit, my hope is gray, and cold
      At heart, thou wouldest murmur still–
      ‘Bring this lamb back into Thy fold,
      My Lord, if so it be Thy will.’
      Wouldst tell me I must brook the rod
      And chastisement of human pride;
      That pride, the sin of devils, stood
      Betwixt me and the light of God;
      That hitherto I had defied
      And had rejected God–that grace
      Would drop from His o’er-brimming love,
      As manna on my wilderness,
      If I would pray–that God would move
      And strike the hard, hard rock, and thence,
      Sweet in their utmost bitterness,
      Would issue tears of penitence
      Which would keep green hope’s life. Alas!
      I think that pride hath now no place
      Nor sojourn in me. I am void,
      Dark, formless, utterly destroyed.

      Why not believe then? Why not yet
      Anchor thy frailty there, where man
      Hath moor’d and rested? Ask the sea
      At midnight, when the crisp slope waves
      After a tempest rib and fret
      The broad-imbased beach, why he
      Slumbers not like a mountain tarn?
      Wherefore his ridges are not curls
      And ripples of an inland mere?
      Wherefore he moaneth thus, nor can
      Draw down into his vexed pools
      All that blue heaven which hues and paves
      The other? I am too forlorn,
      Too shaken: my own weakness fools
      My judgment, and my spirit whirls,
      Moved from beneath with doubt and fear.

      ‘Yet,’ said I, in my morn of youth,
      The unsunn’d freshness of my strength,
      When I went forth in quest of truth,
      ‘It is man’s privilege to doubt,
      If so be that from doubt at length
      Truth may stand forth unmoved of change,
      An image with profulgent brows
      And perfect limbs, as from the storm
      Of running fires and fluid range
      Of lawless airs, at last stood out
      This excellence and solid form
      Of constant beauty. For the ox
      Feeds in the herb, and sleeps, or fills
      The horned valleys all about,
      And hollows of the fringed hills
      In summer heats, with placid lows
      Unfearing, till his own blood flows
      About his hoof. And in the flocks
      The lamb rejoiceth in the year,
      And raceth freely with his fere,
      And answers to his mother’s calls
      From the flower’d furrow. In a time
      Of which he wots not, run short pains
      Thro’ his warm heart; and then, from whence
      He knows not, on his light there falls
      A shadow; and his native slope,
      Where he was wont to leap and climb,
      Floats from his sick and filmed eyes,
      And something in the darkness draws
      His forehead earthward, and he dies.
      Shall man live thus, in joy and hope
      As a young lamb, who cannot dream,
      Living, but that he shall live on?
      Shall we not look into the laws
      Of life and death, and things that seem,
      And things that be, and analyze
      Our double nature, and compare
      All creeds till we have found the one,
      If one there be?’ Ay me! I fear
      All may not doubt, but everywhere
      Some must clasp idols. Yet, my God,
      Whom call I idol? Let Thy dove
      Shadow me over, and my sins
      Be unremember’d, and Thy love
      Enlighten me. O, teach me yet
      Somewhat before the heavy clod
      Weighs on me, and the busy fret
      Of that sharp-headed worm begins
      In the gross blackness underneath.

      O weary life! O weary death!
      O spirit and heart made desolate!
      O damned vacillating state!
       


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