"Our Hope."

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A WIND-BORNE shred of that mysterious scroll
Wherein the secrets of the deep are writ:
An echo of the warfare of the soul:
A stranded hope; "Our Hope" — so runneth it.
So runneth it; a tale of manful aim,
Of clinging trust, of hope that would not die,
Shrunk to the piteous legend of a name,
That lingers in baptismal mockery.
"Our Hope!" Poor chronicle unsouled of sense!
Drear ghost of shattered hope! — but potent yet
With wail of sea-sepulchral eloquence
To wake conjecture, and confirm regret!
Brief words and few; but needs no more to tell
Of hope from shipwrecked hope through toil renewed;
And how from some lone isle with glad farewell
THEY launched upon the awful solitude.
How day by day they stared at ocean's rim
With straining eyes, for sail, or cliff, or tree,
Till all things paled, and ev'n "Our Hope" grew dim,
And dark-winged night came brooding o'er the sea.
Or how beneath a fateful sky o'ercast,
'Mid panting silence of deceitful calms,
The long sore shrift of prayerful vigils passed,
With heaven-turned faces and uplifted palms.
Or how, when quivering up the orient slope
Of dawn, the opal splendors thrilled and spread,
Glad in the joy of hope renewed, "Our Hope"
With homeward throb across the waters fled.
How day brought night, and night reluctant morn,
Till hope deferred became a wild despair,
And shoreless sunsets laughed their dreams to scorn,
And Doom hung lurid on the burdened air.
How one by one, no more by hope beguiled,
Fed the hot winds with taint of dying breath,
Until the last lone lingerer, fever-wild,
Arraigning Heav'n, leaped madly into death.
Is this the last of hope? — An empty shell
The bitter end of many a toil-drawn sigh?
"Why make we such ado?" Were it not well
To fold our robes about us, and to die?
To build — put forth — and cease: Is this our tale?
Shall baffled effort mock us evermore?
Come forth, oh brighter Faith, with golden sail,
And bring us tidings from the further shore!
Shine forth, oh Faith, from out the viewless scope
Of rich fulfilment far o'er mortal dreams!
Shine forth with joyous tidings of "Our Hope"
Home-haven'd by the marge of crystal streams!

© James Brunton Stephens