Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-Four

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I HEAR no footfall beating through the dark,
  A lonely gust is loitering at the pane;
There is no sound within these forests stark
  Beyond a splash or two of sullen rain;

But you are with us! and our patient land
  Is filled with long-expected change at last,
Though we have scarce the heart to lift a hand
  Of welcome, after all the yearning past!

Ah! marvel not; the days and nights were long
  And cold and dull and dashed with many tears;
And lately there hath been a doleful song,
  Of “Mene, Mene,” in our restless ears!

Indeed, we’ve said, “The royal son of Time,
  Whose feet will shortly cross our threshold floor,
May lead us to those outer heights sublime
  Our Sires have sold their lives to see before!

We’ll follow him! Beyond the waves and wrecks
  Of years fulfilled, some fine results must lie;
We’ll pass the last of all wild things that vex
  The pale, sad face of our Humanity!”

But now our fainting feet are loth to stray
  From trodden paths; our eyes with pain are blind!
We’ve lost fair treasures by the weary way;
  We cry, like children, to be left behind.

Our human speech is dim. Yet, latest born
  Of God’s Eternity, there came to me,
In saddened streets last week, from lips forlorn
  A sound more solemn than the sleepless sea!

O, Rachael! Rachael! We have heard the cries
  In Rama, stranger, o’er our darling dead;
And seen our mothers with the heavy eyes,
  Who would not hearken to be comforted!

Then lead us gently! It must come to pass
  That some of us shall halt and faint and fall;
For we are looking through a darkened glass,
  And Heaven seems far, and faith grows cold and pale.

I know, for one, I need a subtle strength
  I have not yet to hold me from a fall;
What time I cry to God within the length
  Of weary hours; my face against the wall!

My mourning brothers! in the long, still nights,
  When sleep is wilful, and the lone moon shines,
Bethink you of the silent, silver lights,
  And darks with Death amongst the moody pines!

Then, though you cannot shut a stricken face
  Away from you, this hope will come about
That Christ hath sent again throughout the place
  Some signs of Love to worst and weaken doubt.

So you may find in every afterthought
  A peace beyond your best expression dear;
And haply hearken to the Voice which wrought
  Such strength in Peter on the seas of fear!

© Henry Kendall