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The Complete Poetical Works . Naden, Constance, 1858–1889.
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page: 356

THE PRIEST’S WARNING. *

DOST long for sunrise?—quench the vain desire, And bar thy window ’gainst the eastern fire. Thy fathers dwelt content in sacred night; Walking by faith, they scorned unholy sight: Then, reckless gazer, close in shame thine eyes, And hide thy head, while morn illumes the skies: Wrapped in Egyptian gloom the truth receive, Lest haply thou shouldst see—and disbelieve. The shapes of night, with outlines faint and blurred; The sounds of night, in soft confusion heard; The scents of night, that come from flowers unknown— Were they not sweet, and were they not thine own? And he who could not rest might see the stars And moonlight beaming through his prison bars; Yet blest is he who sleeps, for morning takes These tender glories from the eye that wakes: Yes, he who sleeps is blest; in holy dreams,

Originally appeared in The Agnostic, February, 1885.

page: 357 Through day and night he sees the same fair beams. Come, dream again; or, if thy lawless mind Have seen the sun, and can no more be blind, For eyes profane as thine the daylight keep, Nor wake the sainted souls who yet can sleep. Yon murderer, cheered with sacramental wine, Has higher hopes and holier thoughts than thine. ’Tis merciful to hang him, for perhaps His convalescent conscience might relapse: Shall new‐purged eyes behold that loathsome cot, That hideous home, where love and health are not? Shall hands new‐cleansed caress that cowering wife? (Poor wretch, who knows not yet the loftier life! Blighted and scarred, grown dull of heart and eye, Mother of starveling children, born to die.) What if the fiend, with seven more vile, returned, And banished all the truth, so quickly learned? Yet has he passed the mystic second birth, Prepared for heaven, though quite unfit for earth. Straight from the gallows shall his spirit fly To join the white‐robed company on high, Despatched in mercy to the heavenly shore, To kick his wife, to kill his friends, no more. But thou, though pure thy deeds, though kind thy heart, In God’s free grace canst have nor lot nor part; Thou, by unhallowed thirst for truth consumed, With thieves, and cheats, and liars shalt be doomed: page: 358 Thy foes thou pardonest; but thy heavenly Sire Tortures his own with everlasting fire. Just Ruler! when we strive the truth to win A false conclusion is a damning sin: If unto thee a crooked pathway leans, That glorious end may sanctify the means; But, if the straightest path should from thee tend, The means can never sanctify the end. Presumptuous man! be humbled in the dust! We are the Church of God, and he is just. Cling to the Cross, renounce thy fruitless search; Better be deaf and blind than leave the Church. Pluck out thine eyes, lest they should see too clear; And lest thine ears mislead thee, cease to hear. Better, a sightless cripple, save thy soul, Than enter fires of hell, though sound and whole. Prove sacred things by faith, if proof they need; But prove not those which war against our creed: Or, if thou follow Reason’s polar star, Turn back in time, nor follow it too far. From many a distant, night‐encircled tomb Comes forth an ancient voice, a sound of doom. The thorn‐crowned ages cry: “Return, return, In haunts of death the way of life to learn. Ah, wherefore pine and struggle to be free? For what has liberty to do with thee? Thy fathers wore their fetters to the grave; page: 359 Then why shouldst thou disdain to be a slave? Round every limb they wreathed the golden chain, And what thou deemest loss they counted gain. Wilt thou be free? then Christ is not thy Lord: Wilt thou be true? let Hell be thy reward!”
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