Songs with Preludes: Lamentation

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I read upon that book,
Which down the golden gulf doth let us look
On the sweet days of pastoral majesty;
  I read upon that book
  How, when the Shepherd Prince did flee
  (Red Esau’s twin), he desolate took
The stone for a pillow:  then he fell on sleep.
And lo! there was a ladder.  Lo! there hung
A ladder from the star-place, and it clung
To the earth:  it tied her so to heaven; and O!
  There fluttered wings;
Then were ascending and descending things
  That stepped to him where he lay low;
Then up the ladder would a-drifting go
(This feathered brood of heaven), and show
Small as white flakes in winter that are blown
Together, underneath the great white throne.

When I had shut the book, I said,
“Now, as for me, my dreams upon my bed
Are not like Jacob’s dream;
Yet I have got it in my life; yes, I,
And many more:  it doth not us beseem,
Therefore, to sigh.
Is there not hung a ladder in our sky?
Yea; and, moreover, all the way up on high
Is thickly peopled with the prayers of men.
We have no dream!  What then?
Like wingéd wayfarers the height they scale
(By Him that offers them they shall prevail),—­
The prayers of men.
But where is found a prayer for me;
How should I pray?
My heart is sick, and full of strife.
I heard one whisper with departing breath,
’Suffer us not, for any pains of death,
To fall from Thee.’
But O, the pains of life! the pains of life!
There is no comfort now, and naught to win,
But yet,—­I will begin.”

“Preserve to me my wealth,” I do not say,
  For that is wasted away;
And much of it was cankered ere it went.
“Preserve to me my health.”  I cannot say,
  For that, upon a day,
Went after other delights to banishment.

What can I pray?  “Give me forgetfulness”?
  No, I would still possess
Past away smiles, though present fronts be stern.
“Give me again my kindred?” Nay; not so,
  Not idle prayers.  We know
They that have crossed the river cannot return.

I do not pray, “Comfort me! comfort me!”
  For how should comfort be?
O,—­O that cooing mouth,—­that little white head!
No; but I pray, “If it be not too late,
  Open to me the gate,
That I may find my babe when I am dead.

“Show me the path.  I had forgotten Thee
  When I was happy and free,
Walking down here in the gladsome light o’ the sun;
But now I come and mourn; O set my feet
  In the road to Thy blest seat,
And for the rest, O God, Thy will be done.”

© Jean Ingelow