Julia Caroline Ripley Dorr (1825-1913)
From Afternoon Songs (1885)
O Earth, that had so long in darkness lain,
Waiting and listening for the Voice that cried,
"Let there be light!"--on thy first eventide
What woe, what fear, wrung thy dumb soul with pain!
In darkling space down dropt the red sun, slain,
With all his banners drooping. Far and wide
Spread desolation's vast and blackening tide.
How couldst thou know that day would dawn again?
But the long hours wore on, till lo! pale gleams
Of faint, far glory lit the eastern skies,
Broadening and reddening till the sun's full beams
Broke in clear, golden splendour on thine eyes.
Darkness and brooding anguish were but dreams,
Lost in a trembling wonder of surprise!
Even so, O Life, all tremulous with woe,
Thou too didst cower when, without sound or jar,
From the high zenith sinking fast and far,
Thy sun went out of heaven! How couldst thou know
In that dark hour, that never tide could flow
So ebon-black, nor ever mountain-bar
Breast night so deep, without or moon or star,
But that the morning yet again must glow?
God never leaves thee in relentless dark.
Slowly the dawn on unbelieving eyes
Breaketh at last. Day brightens,--and, oh hark!
A flood of bird-song from the tender skies!
From storm and darkness thou hast found an ark,
Shut in with this great marvel of surprise!
Come, blessed Darkness, come and bring thy balm
For eyes grown weary of the garish Day!
Come with thy soft, slow steps, thy garments grey,
Thy veiling shadows, bearing in thy palm
The poppy-seeds of slumber, deep and calm!
Come with thy patient stars, whose far-off ray
Steals the hot fever of the soul away,
Thy stillness, sweeter than a chanted psalm!
O blessed Darkness, Day indeed is fair,
And Light is dear when Summer days are long,
And one by one the harvesters go by;
But so is rest sweet, and surcease from care,
And folded palms, and hush of evensong,
And all the unfathomed silence of the sky!
Mysterious One, inscrutable, unknown,
A silent Presence, with averted face,
Whose lineaments no mortal eye can trace,
And robes of trailing darkness round thee thrown,
Over the midnight hills thou comest alone!
What thou dost bring to me from farthest space,
What blessing or what ban, what dole, what grace,
I may not know. Thy secrets are thine own!
Yet, asking not for lightest word or sign
To tell me what the hidden fate may be,
Without a murmur, or a quickened breath,
Unshrinkingly I place my hand in thine,
And through the shadowy depths go forth with thee
To meet, as thou shalt lead, or life, or death!
Then, if I fear not thee, thou veiléd One,
Whose face I know not, why fear I to meet
Beyond the everlasting hills her feet
Who cometh when all Yesterdays are done?
Shall I, who have proved thee good, thy sister shun?
O thou To-morrow, who dost feel the beat
Of life's long, rhythmic pulses, strong and sweet,
In the far realm that hath no need of sun--
Thou who art fairer than the fair To-day
That I have held so dear, and loved so much--
When, slow descending from the hills divine,
Thou summonest me to join thee on thy way,
Let me not shrink nor tremble at thy touch,
Nor fear to break thy bread and drink thy wine!
"O Earth, Art Not Thou Weary?"
O Earth! art thou not weary of thy graves?
Dear, patient Mother Earth, upon thy breast
How are they heaped from farthest east to west!
From the dim north, where wild the storm-wind raves
O'er the cold surge that chills the shore it laves,
To sunlit isles by softest seas caressed,
Where roses bloom alway and song-birds nest,
How thick they lie--like flecks upon the waves!
There is no mountain-top so far and high,
No desert so remote, no vale so deep,
No spot by man so long untenanted,
But the pale moon, slow marching up the sky,
Sees over some lone grave the shadows creep!
O Earth! art thou not weary of thy dead?
(Text from American Sonnets)