John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
ABOVE, below, in sky and sod
In leaf and spar, in star and man,
Well might the wise Athenian scan
The geometric signs of God,
The measured order of His plan.
And India’s mystics sang aright
Of the One Life pervading all,—
One Being’s tidal rise and fall
In soul and form, in sound and sight,—
Eternal outflow and recall.
God is: and man in guilt and fear
The central fact of Nature owns;
Kneels, trembling, by his altar-stones,
And darkly dreams the ghastly smear
Of blood appeases and atones.
Guilt shapes the Terror: deep within
The human heart the secret lies
Of all the hideous deities;
And, painted on a ground of sin,
The fabled gods of torment rise!
And what is He? The ripe grain nods,
The sweet dews fall, the sweet flowers blow;
But darker signs His presence show:
The earthquake and the storm are God’s,
And good and evil interflow.
O hearts of love! O souls that turn
Like sunflowers to the pure and best!
To you the truth is manifest:
For they the mind of Christ discern
Who lean like John upon His breast!
In him of whom the sibyl told,
For whom the prophet’s harp was toned,
Whose need the sage and magian owned,
The loving heart of God behold,
The hope for which the ages groaned!
Fade, pomp of dreadful imagery
Wherewith mankind have deified
Their hate, and selfishness, and pride!
Let the scared dreamer wake to see
The Christ of Nazareth at his side!
What doth that holy Guide require?
No rite of pain, nor gift of blood,
But man a kindly brotherhood,
Looking, where duty is desire,
To Him, the beautiful and good.
Gone be the faithlessness of fear,
And let the pitying heaven’s sweet rain
Wash out the altar’s bloody stain;
The law of Hatred disappear,
The law of Love alone remain.
How fall the idols false and grim!
And lo! their hideous wreck above
The emblems of the Lamb and Dove!
Man turns from God, not God from him;
And guilt, in suffering, whispers Love!
The world sits at the feet of Christ,
Unknowing, blind, and unconsoled;
It yet shall touch His garment’s fold,
And feel the heavenly Alchemist
Transform its very dust to gold.
The theme befitting angel tongues
Beyond a mortal’s scope has grown.
O heart of mine! with reverence own
The fulness which to it belongs,
And trust the unknown for the known.