The Cry of the Human

“there is no God,” the foolish saith, But none, “There is no sorrow”; And nature oft the cry of faith In bitter need will borrow: Eyes which the preacher could not school, By wayside graves are raised; And lips say, “God be pitiful,” Who ne’er said, “God be praised.” Be pitiful, O God! The tempest stretches from the steep The shadow of its coming; The beasts grow tame, and near us creep, As help were in the human: Yet while the cloud-wheels roll and grind We spirits tremble under!— The hills have echoes; but we find No answer for the thunder. Be pitiful, O God! The battle hurtles on the plains— Earth feels new scythes upon her: We reap our brothers for the wains, And call the harvest, honor,— Draw face to face, front line to line, One image all inherit,— Then kill, curse on, by that same sign, Clay, clay,—and spirit, spirit. Be pitiful, O God! The plague runs festering through the town, And never a bell is tolling: And corpses jostled ’neath the moon, Nod to the dead-cart’s rolling. The young child calleth for the cup— The strong man brings it weeping; The mother from her babe looks up, And shrieks away its sleeping. Be pitiful, O God! The plague of gold strides far and near, And deep and strong it enters: This purple chimar which we wear, Makes madder than the centaur’s. Our thoughts grow blank, our words grow strange; We cheer the pale gold-diggers— Each soul is worth so much on ’Change, And marked, like sheep, with figures. Be pitiful, O God! The curse of gold upon the land, The lack of bread enforces— The rail-cars snort from strand to strand, Like more of Death’s White Horses: The rich preach “rights” and future days, And hear no angel scoffing: The poor die mute—with starving gaze On corn-ships in the offing. Be pitiful, O God! We meet together at the feast— To private mirth betake us— We stare down in the winecup lest Some vacant chair should shake us! We name delight, and pledge it round— “It shall be ours to-morrow!” God’s seraphs, do your voices sound As sad in naming sorrow? Be pitiful, O God! We sit together, with the skies, The steadfast skies, above us: We look into each other’s eyes, “And how long will you love us?” The eyes grow dim with prophecy, The voice is low and breathless— “Till death us part!”—O words, to be Our best for love the deathless! Be pitiful, dear God! We tremble by the harmless bed Of one loved and departed— Our tears drop on the lids that said Last night, “Be stronger hearted!” O God,—to clasp those fingers close, And yet to feel so lonely!— To see a light upon such brows, Which is the daylight only! Be pitiful, O God! The happy children come to us, And look up in our faces: They ask us—Was it thus, and thus, When we were in their places? We cannot speak:—we see anew The hills we used to live in; And feel our mother’s smile press through The kisses she is giving. Be pitiful, O God! We pray together at the kirk, For mercy, mercy, solely— Hands weary with the evil work, We lift them to the Holy! The corpse is calm below our knee— Its spirit bright before thee— Between them, worse than either, we— Without the rest of glory! Be pitiful, O God! We leave the communing of men, The murmur of the passions; And live alone, to live again With endless generations. Are we so brave?—The sea and sky In silence lift their mirrors; And, glassed therein, our spirits high Recoil from their own terrors. Be pitiful, O God! We sit on hills our childhood wist, Woods, hamlets, streams, beholding: The sun strikes through the farthest mist, The city’s spire to golden. The city’s golden spire it was, When hope and health were strong; But now it is the churchyard grass, We look upon the longest. Be pitiful, O God! And soon all vision waxeth dull— Men whisper, “He is dying”: We cry no more, “Be pitiful!”— We have no strength for crying: No strength, no need! Then, Soul of mine, Look up and triumph rather— Lo! in the depth of God’s Divine, The Son adjures the Father— BE PITIFUL, O GOD.

Sub Title: 
VI. Human Experience

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