If this were Love, if all this bitter pain
Were but the birth-pang of Love born again,
If through the doubts and dreams resolved, smiled
The prophetic promise of the holy child,
What should I gain? The Love whose dream-lips smiled
Could never be my own and only child,
But to Love’s birth would come, with the last pain,
Renunciation, also born again.
If this were Love why should I turn away?
Am I not, too, made of the common clay?
Is life so fair, am I so fortunate,
I can refuse the capricious gift of Fate,
The sudden glory, the unhoped-for flowers,
The transfiguration of my earthly hours?
Come, Love! the house is garnished and is swept,
Washed clean with all the tears that I have wept,
Washed from the stain of my unworthy fears,
Hung with the splendid spoils of wasted years,
Lighted with lamps of hope, and curtained fast
Against the gathered darkness of the past.
I draw the bolts! I throw the portals wide,
The darkness rushes shivering to my side,
Love is not here—the darkness creeps about
My house wherein the lamps of hope die out.
Ah Love! it was not then your hand that came
Beating my door? your voice that called my name?
“It is not Love, it is not Love,” I said,
And bowed in fearful hope my trembling head.
“It is not Love, for Love could never rise
Out of the rock-hewn grave wherein he lies.”
But as I spake, the heavenly form drew near
Where close I clasped a hope grown keen as fear,
Upon my head His very hand He laid
And whispered, “It is I, be not afraid!”
And this is Love, no rose-crowned laughing guest
By whom my passionate heart should be caressed,
But one re-risen from the grave; austere,
Cold as the grave, and infinitely dear,
To follow whom I lay the whole world down,
Take up the cross, bind on the thorny crown;
And, following whom, my bleeding pilgrim feet
Find the rough pathway sure and very sweet.
The august environment of mighty wings
Shuts out the snare of vain imaginings,
For by my side, crowned with Love’s death-white rose,
The Angel of Renunciation goes.
“Refuse, refrain: for this is not
The Annunciation Angel warned you of;
This is the little candle, not the sun;
It burns, but will not warm, unhappy one!”
“But ah! suppose the sun should never shine,
Then what an anguish of regret were mine
To know that even from this I turned away!
Candles may serve, if there should be no day.”
“Nay, better to go cold your whole life long
Than do the sun, than do your soul such wrong:
And if the sun shine not, be life’s the blame
And yours the pride, who scorned the meaner flame.”