A Story Of Doom: Book IX.

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The prayer of Noah. The man went forth by night
And listened; and the earth was dark and still,
And he was driven of his great distress
Into the forest; but the birds of night
Sang sweetly; and he fell upon his face,
And cried, "God, God! Thy billows and Thy waves
Have swallowed up my soul.

  "Where is my God?
For I have somewhat yet to plead with Thee;
For I have walked the strands of Thy great deep,
Heard the dull thunder of its rage afar,
And its dread moaning. O, the field is sweet,-
Spare it. The delicate woods make white their trees
With blossom,-spare them. Life is sweet; behold
There is much cattle, and the wild and tame,
Father, do feed in quiet,-spare them.

Where is my God? The long wave doth not rear
Her ghostly crest to lick the forest up,
And like a chief in battle fall,-not yet.
The lightnings pour not down, from ragged holes
In heaven, the torment of their fork餠tongues,
And, like fell serpents, dart and sting,-not yet.
The winds awake not, with their awful wings
To winnow, even as chaff, from out their track,
All that withstandeth, and bring down the pride
Of all things strong and all things high-

  "Not yet.
O, let it not be yet. Where is my God?
How am I saved, if I and mine be saved
Alone? I am not saved, for I have loved
My country and my kin. Must I, Thy thrall,
Over their lands be lord when they are gone?
I would not: spare them. Mighty. Spare Thyself,
For Thou dost love them greatly,-and if not…"

Another praying unremote, a Voice
Calm as the solitude between wide stars.

"Where is my God, who loveth this lost world,-
Lost from its place and name, but won for Thee?
Where is my multitude, my multitude,
That I shall gather?" And white smoke went up
From incense that was burning, but there gleamed
No light of fire, save dimly to reveal
The whiteness rising, as the prayer of him
That mourned. "My God, appear for me, appear;
Give me my multitude, for it is mine.
The bitterness of death I have not feared,
To-morrow shall Thy courts, O God, be full.
Then shall the captive from his bonds go free,
Then shall the thrall find rest, that knew not rest
From labor and from blows. The sorrowful-
That said of joy, 'What is it?' and of songs,
'We have not heard them'-shall be glad and sing;
Then shall the little ones that knew not Thee,
And such as heard not of Thee, see Thy face,
And seeing, dwell content."
  The prayer of Noah.
He cried out in the darkness, "Hear, O God,
Hear HIM: hear this one; through the gates of death,
If life be all past praying for, O give
To Thy great multitude a way to peace;
Give them to HIM.

  "But yet," said he, "O yet,
If there be respite for the terrible,
The proud, yea, such as scorn Thee,-and if not….
Let not mine eyes behold their fall."
  He cried,
"Forgive. I have not done Thy work, Great Judge,
With a perfect heart; I have but half believed,
While in accustomed language I have warned;
And now there is no more to do, no place
For my repentance, yea, no hour remains
For doing of that work again. O, lost,
Lost world!" And while he prayed, the daylight dawned.

And Noah went up into the ship, and sat
Before the Lord. And all was still; and now
In that great quietness the sun came up,
And there were marks across it, as it were
The shadow of a Hand upon the sun,-
Three fingers dark and dread, and afterward
There rose a white, thick mist, that peacefully
Folded the fair earth in her funeral shroud,
The earth that gave no token, save that now
There fell a little trembling under foot.

And Noah went down, and took and hid his face
Behind his mantle, saying, "I have made
Great preparation, and it may be yet,
Beside my house, whom I did charge to come
This day to meet me, there may enter in
Many that yesternight thought scorn of all
My bidding." And because the fog was thick,
He said, "Forbid it, Heaven, if such there be,
That they should miss the way." And even then
There was a noise of weeping and lament;
The words of them that were affrighted, yea,
And cried for grief of heart. There came to him
The mother and her children, and they cried,
"Speak, father, what is this? What hast thou done?"
And when he lifted up his face, he saw
Japhet, his well-belov餬 where he stood
Apart; and Amarant leaned upon his breast,
And hid her face, for she was sore afraid;
And lo! the robes of her betrothal gleamed
White in the deadly gloom.
  And at his feet
The wives of his two other sons did kneel,
And wring their hands.

  One cried, "O, speak to us;
We are affrighted; we have dreamed a dream,
Each to herself. For me, I saw in mine
The grave old angels, like to shepherds, walk,
Much cattle following them. Thy daughter looked,
And they did enter here."
  The other lay
And moaned, "Alas! O father, for my dream
Was evil: lo, I heard when it was dark,
I heard two wicked ones contend for me.
One said, 'And wherefore should this woman live,
When only for her children, and for her,
Is woe and degradation?' Then he laughed,
The other crying, 'Let alone, O prince;
Hinder her not to live and bear much seed,
Because I hate her.'"
  But he said, "Rise up,
Daughters of Noah, for I have learned no words
To comfort you." Then spake her lord to her,
"Peace! or I swear that for thy dream, myself
Will hate thee also."
  And Niloiya said,
"My sons, if one of you will hear my words,
Go now, look out, and tell me of the day,
How fares it?"
  And the fateful darkness grew.
But Shem went up to do his mother's will;
And all was one as though the frighted earth
Quivered and fell a-trembling; then they hid
Their faces every one, till he returned,
And spake not. "Nay," they cried, "what hast thou seen?
O, is it come to this?" He answered them,
"The door is shut."

© Jean Ingelow