And when the crowded, sunlit day at last
Left the field lonely with its trampled flowers,
Into the chapel’s peace the brothers passed
To quell the memory of those hurrying hours.
“Our holy time,” they said, “once more is ours!
Come, let us pay our debt of prayer and praise,
Forgetting in God’s light the darkness of man’s ways!”
But, ere their voices reached the first psalm’s
They heard a new, strange rustling round their house;
Then came the porter: “Here comes many a friend,
Pushing aside your budding orchard boughs;
Come, brothers, justify your holy vows.
Here be God’s patient, poor, four-footed things
Seek healing at God’s well, whence loving-kindness springs.”
Then cried the Abbot in a vexed amaze,
“Our brethren we must aid, if ’tis God’s will;
But the wild creatures of the forest ways
Himself God heals with His Almighty skill.
And charity is good, and love—but still
God shall not look in vain for the white prayers
We send on silver feet to climb the starry stairs;
“For, of all worthy things, prayer has most
It rises like sweet incense up to heaven,
And from God’s hand falls back upon the earth,
Being of heavenly bread the accepted leaven.
Through prayer is virtue saved and sin forgiven;
In prayer the impulse and the force are found
That bring in purple and gold the fruitful seasons round.
“For prayer comes down from heaven in the sun
That giveth life and joy to all things made;
Prayer falls in rain to make broad rivers run
And quickens the seeds in earth’s brown bosom laid;
By prayer the red-hung branch is earthward weighed,
By prayer the barn grows full, and full the fold,
For by man’s prayer God works his wonders manifold.”
The porter seemed to bow to the reproof;
But when the echo of the night’s last prayer
Died in the mystery of the vaulted roof,
A whispered memory in the hallowed air,
The Abbot turned to find him standing there.
“Brother,” he said, “I have healed the woodland things
And they go happy and whole—blessing Love’s ministerings,
“And, having healed them, I shall crave your
To leave you—for to-night I journey far.
But I have kept your gate this Easter Eve,
And now your house to heaven shines like a star
To show the Angels where God’s children are;
And in this day your house has served God more
Than in the praise and prayer of all its years before.
“Yet I must leave you, though I fain would stay,
For there are other gates I go to keep
Of houses round whose walls, long day by day,
Shut out of hope and love, poor sinners weep—
Barred folds that keep out God’s poor wandering sheep—
I must teach these that gates where God comes in
Must not be shut at all to pain, or want, or sin.
“The voice of prayer is very soft and weak,
And sorrow and sin have voices very strong;
Prayer is not heard in heaven when those twain speak,
The voice of prayer faints in the voice of wrong
By the just man endured—oh, Lord, how long?—
If ye would have your prayers in heaven be heard,
Look that wrong clamour not with too intense a word.