On his ear fell the convent bell,
That told him the poor did wait
For his hand to divide the daily bread,
All at the convent-gate.
And a storm of thoughts within him
Blew hither and thither long;
And the bell kept calling all the time
With its iron merciless tongue.
He looked in the Master’s eyes,
And he sprang to his feet in strength:
“Though I find him not when I come back,
I shall find him the more at length.”
He went, and he fed the poor,
All at the convent-gate;
And like one bereft, with heavy feet
Went back to be desolate.
He stood by the door, unwilling
To see the cell so bare;
He opened the door, and lo!
The Master was standing there.
“I have waited for thee, because
The poor had not to wait;
And I stood beside thee all the time,
In the crowd at the convent-gate.”
* * * * *
But it seems to me, though the story
Sayeth no word of this,
If the monk had stayed, the Lord would have stayed,
Nor crushed that heart of his.
For out of the far-off times
A word sounds tenderly:
“The poor ye have always with you,
And ye have not always me.”
Alas! ’tis cold and dark;
The wind all night has sung a wintry tune;
Hail from black clouds that swallowed up the moon
Has beat against my bark.
Oh! when will it be spring?
The sap moves not within my withered veins;
Through all my frozen roots creep numbing pains,
That they can hardly cling.
The sun shone out last morn;
I felt the warmth through every fibre float;
I thought I heard a thrush’s piping note,
Of hope and sadness born.
Then came the sea-cloud driven;
The tempest hissed through all my outstretched boughs,
Hither and thither tossed me in its snows,
Beneath the joyless heaven.
O for the sunny leaves!
Almost I have forgot the breath of June!
Forgot the feathery light-flakes from the moon!
The praying summer-eves!
O for the joyous birds,
Which are the tongues of us, mute, longing trees!
O for the billowy odours, and the bees
Abroad in scattered herds!
The blessing of cool showers!
The gratefulness that thrills through every shoot!
The children playing round my deep-sunk root,
Shadowed in hot noon hours!
Alas! the cold clear dawn
Through the bare lattice-work of twigs around!
Another weary day of moaning sound
On the thin-shadowed lawn!
Yet winter’s noon is past:
I’ll stretch my arms all night into the wind,
Endure all day the chill air and unkind;
My leaves will come at last.