One moment of my sickening toil about thee,
Best counsellor—dumb preacher, who dost warn me
How much I have enjoyed, how much have left,
Which thou hast never known. How am I wretched?
The happiness thou hast from me, is mine,
And makes me happy. Ay, there lies the secret—
Could we but crush that ever-craving lust
For bliss, which kills all bliss, and lose our life,
Our barren unit life, to find again
A thousand lives in those for whom we die.
So were we men and women, and should hold
Our rightful rank in God’s great universe,
Wherein, in heaven and earth, by will or nature,
Nought lives for self—All, all—from crown to footstool—
The Lamb, before the world’s foundations slain—
The angels, ministers to God’s elect—
The sun, who only shines to light a world—
The clouds, whose glory is to die in showers—
The fleeting streams, who in their ocean-graves
Flee the decay of stagnant self-content—
The oak, ennobled by the shipwright’s axe—
The soil, which yields its marrow to the flower—
The flower, which feeds a thousand velvet worms,
Born only to be prey for every bird—
All spend themselves for others: and shall man,
Earth’s rosy blossom—image of his God—
Whose twofold being is the mystic knot
Which couples earth and heaven—doubly bound
As being both worm and angel, to that service
By which both worms and angels hold their life—
Shall he, whose every breath is debt on debt,
Refuse, without some hope of further wage
Which he calls Heaven, to be what God has made him?
No! let him show himself the creature’s lord
By freewill gift of that self-sacrifice
Which they perforce by nature’s law must suffer.
This too I had to learn (I thank thee, Lord!),
To lie crushed down in darkness and the pit—
To lose all heart and hope—and yet to work.
What lesson could I draw from all my own woes—
Ingratitude, oppression, widowhood—
While I could hug myself in vain conceits
Of self-contented sainthood—inward raptures—
Celestial palms—and let ambition’s gorge
Taint heaven, as well as earth? Is selfishness
For time, a sin—spun out to eternity
Celestial prudence? Shame! Oh, thrust me forth,
Forth, Lord, from self, until I toil and die
No more for Heaven and bliss, but duty, Lord,
Duty to Thee, although my meed should be
The hell which I deserve!
[Two women enter.]
1st Woman. What! snoring still? ’Tis
nearly time to wake her To do her penance.
2d Woman. Wait a while, for love:
Indeed, I am almost ashamed to punish
A bag of skin and bones.
1st Woman. ’Tis for her good:
She has had her share of pleasure in this life
With her gay husband; she must have her pain.
We bear it as a thing of course; we know
What mortifications are, although I say it
That should not.
2d Woman. Why, since my old tyrant died,
Fasting I’ve sought the Lord, like any Anna,
And never tasted fish, nor flesh, nor fowl,
And little stronger than water.