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A Prayer for the Past



All sights and sounds of every year,
All groups and forms, each leaf and gem,
Are thine, O God, nor need I fear
To speak to Thee of them.

Too great thy heart is to despise;
Thy day girds centuries about;
From things which we count small, thine eyes
See great things looking out.

Therefore this prayerful song I sing
May come to Thee in ordered words;
Therefore its sweet sounds need not cling
In terror to their chords.

* * * * *

I know that nothing made is lost;
That not a moon hath ever shone,
That not a cloud my eyes hath crost,
But to my soul hath gone.

That all the dead years garnered lie
In this gem-casket, my dim soul;
And that thy hand may, once, apply
The key that opes the whole.

But what lies dead in me, yet lives
In Thee, whose Parable is--Time,
And Worlds, and Forms, and Sound that gives
Words and the music-chime.

And after my next coming birth,
The new child's prayer will rise to Thee:
To hear again the sounds of Earth,
Its sights again to see.

With child's glad eyes to see once more
The visioned glories of the gloom,
With climbing suns, and starry store,
Ceiling my little room.

O call again the moons that glide
Behind old vapours sailing slow;
Lost sights of solemn skies that slide
O'er eyelids sunken low.

Show me the tides of dawning swell,
And lift the world's dim eastern eye,
And the dark tears that all night fell
With radiance glorify.

First I would see, oh, sore bereft!
My father's house, my childhood's home;
Where the wild snow-storms raved, and left
White mounds of frozen foam.

Till, going out one dewy morn,
A man was turning up the mould;
And in our hearts the spring was born,
Crept hither through the cold.

And with the glad year I would go,
The troops of daisies round my feet;
Flying the kite, or, in the glow
Of arching summer heat,

Outstretched in fear upon the bank,
Lest gazing up on awful space,
I should fall down into the blank
From off the round world's face.

And let my brothers be with me
To play our old games yet again;
And all should go as lovingly
As now that we are men.

If over Earth the shade of Death
Passed like a cloud's wide noiseless wing,
We'd tell a secret, in low breath:
"Mind, 'tis a dream of Spring.

"And in this dream, our brother's gone
Upstairs; he heard our father call;
For one by one we go alone,
Till he has gathered all."

Father, in joy our knees we bow;
This earth is not a place of tombs:
We are but in the nursery now;
They in the upper rooms.

For are we not at home in Thee,
And all this world a visioned show;
That, knowing what Abroad is, we
What Home is, too, may know?

And at thy feet I sit, O Lord,
As years ago, in moonlight pale,
I sat and heard my father's word
Reading a lofty tale.

So in this vision I would go
Still onward through the gliding years,
Reaping great Noontide's joyous glow,
Still Eve's refreshing tears.

One afternoon sit pondering
In that old chair, in that old room,
Where passing pigeon's sudden wing
Flashed lightning through the gloom.

There, try once more with effort vain,
To mould in one perplexed things;
And find the solace yet again
Faith in the Father brings.

Or on my horse go wandering round,
Mid desert moors and mountains high;
While storm-clouds, darkly brooding, found
In me another sky.

For so thy Visible grew mine,
Though half its power I could not know;
And in me wrought a work divine,
Which Thou hadst ordered so;

Filling my brain with form and word
From thy full utterance unto men;
Shapes that might ancient Truth afford,
And find it words again.

Till Spring, in after years of youth,
Wove its dear form with every form;
Now a glad bursting into Truth,
Now a low sighing storm.

But in this vision of the Past,
Spring-world to summer leading in,
Whose joys but not whose sorrows last,
I have left out the sin.

I picture but development,
Green leaves unfolding to their fruits,
Expanding flowers, aspiring scent,
But not the writhing roots.

Then follow English sunsets, o'er
A warm rich land outspread below;
A green sea from a level shore,
Bright boats that come and go.

And one beside me in whose eyes
Old Nature found a welcome home,
A treasury of changeful skies
Beneath a changeless dome.

But will it still be thus, O God?
And shall I always wish to see
And trace again the hilly road
By which I went to Thee?

We bend above a joy new given,
That gives new feelings gladsome birth;
A living gift from one in heaven
To two upon the earth.

Are no days creeping softly on
Which I should tremble to renew?
I thank thee, Lord, for what is gone--
Thine is the future too.

And are we not at home in Thee,
And all this world a visioned show;
That knowing what Abroad is, we
What Home is, too, may know?


George MacDonald