Underwoods

Page 08

Freedom is far, rest far. Thou art with life Too closely woven, nerve with nerve intwined; Service still craving service, love for love, Love for dear love, still suppliant with tears. Alas, not yet thy human task is done! A bond at birth is forged; a debt doth lie Immortal on mortality. It grows - By vast rebound it grows, unceasing growth; Gift upon gift, alms upon alms, upreared, From man, from God, from nature, till the soul At that so huge indulgence stands amazed.

Leave not, my soul, the unfoughten field, nor leave Thy debts dishonoured, nor thy place desert Without due service rendered. For thy life, Up, spirit, and defend that fort of clay, Thy body, now beleaguered; whether soon Or late she fall; whether to-day thy friends Bewail thee dead, or, after years, a man Grown old in honour and the friend of peace. Contend, my soul, for moments and for hours; Each is with service pregnant; each reclaimed Is as a kingdom conquered, where to reign.

As when a captain rallies to the fight His scattered legions, and beats ruin back, He, on the field, encamps, well pleased in mind. Yet surely him shall fortune overtake, Him smite in turn, headlong his ensigns drive; And that dear land, now safe, to-morrow fall. But he, unthinking, in the present good Solely delights, and all the camps rejoice.

XXV

It is not yours, O mother, to complain, Not, mother, yours to weep, Though nevermore your son again Shall to your bosom creep, Though nevermore again you watch your baby sleep.

Though in the greener paths of earth, Mother and child, no more We wander; and no more the birth Of me whom once you bore, Seems still the brave reward that once it seemed of yore;

Though as all passes, day and night, The seasons and the years, From you, O mother, this delight, This also disappears - Some profit yet survives of all your pangs and tears.

The child, the seed, the grain of corn, The acorn on the hill, Each for some separate end is born In season fit, and still Each must in strength arise to work the almighty will.

So from the hearth the children flee, By that almighty hand Austerely led; so one by sea Goes forth, and one by land; Nor aught of all man's sons escapes from that command

So from the sally each obeys The unseen almighty nod; So till the ending all their ways Blindfolded loth have trod: Nor knew their task at all, but were the tools of God.

And as the fervent smith of yore Beat out the glowing blade, Nor wielded in the front of war The weapons that he made, But in the tower at home still plied his ringing trade;

So like a sword the son shall roam On nobler missions sent; And as the smith remained at home In peaceful turret pent, So sits the while at home the mother well content.

XXVI - THE SICK CHILD

CHILD. O Mother, lay your hand on my brow! O mother, mother, where am I now? Why is the room so gaunt and great? Why am I lying awake so late?

MOTHER. Fear not at all: the night is still. Nothing is here that means you ill - Nothing but lamps the whole town through, And never a child awake but you.

CHILD. Mother, mother, speak low in my ear, Some of the things are so great and near, Some are so small and far away, I have a fear that I cannot say, What have I done, and what do I fear, And why are you crying, mother dear?

MOTHER. Out in the city, sounds begin Thank the kind God, the carts come in! An hour or two more, and God is so kind, The day shall be blue in the window-blind, Then shall my child go sweetly asleep, And dream of the birds and the hills of sheep.

XXVII - IN MEMORIAM F. A. S.

Yet, O stricken heart, remember, O remember How of human days he lived the better part. April came to bloom and never dim December Breathed its killing chills upon the head or heart.

Doomed to know not Winter, only Spring, a being Trod the flowery April blithely for a while, Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing, Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.

Came and stayed and went, and now when all is finished, You alone have crossed the melancholy stream, Yours the pang, but his, O his, the undiminished Undecaying gladness, undeparted dream.

Underwoods Page 09

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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