I lay and dreamed. The master came
In his old woven dress;
I stood in joy, and yet in shame,
Oppressed with earthliness.
He stretched his arms, and gently sought
To clasp me to his soul;
I shrunk away, because I thought
He did not know the whole.
I did not love him as I would,
Embraces were not meet;
I sank before him where he stood,
And held and kissed his feet.
Ten years have passed away since then,
Oft hast thou come to me;
The question scarce will rise again,
Whether I care for thee.
To every doubt, in thee my heart
An answer hopes to find;
In every gladness, Lord, thou art,
The deeper joy behind.
And yet in other realms of life,
Unknown temptations rise,
Unknown perplexities and strife,
New questions and replies.
And every lesson learnt, anew,
The vain assurance lends
That now I know, and now can do,
And now should see thy ends.
So I forget I am a child,
And act as if a man;
Who through the dark and tempest wild
Will go, because he can.
And so, O Lord, not yet I dare
To clasp thee to my breast;
Though well I know that only there
Is hid the secret rest.
And yet I shrink not, as at first:
Be thou the judge of guilt;
Thou knowest all my best and worst,
Do with me as thou wilt.
Spread thou once more thine arms abroad,
Lay bare thy bosom’s beat;
Thou shalt embrace me, O my God,
And I will kiss thy feet.
I stood before my childhood’s home,
Outside the belt of trees;
All round, my dreaming glances roam
On well-known hills and leas.
When sudden, from the westward, rushed
A wide array of waves;
Over the subject fields they gushed
From far-off, unknown caves.
And up the hill they clomb and came,
On flowing like a sea:
I saw, and watched them like a game;
No terror woke in me.
For just the belting trees within,
I saw my father wait;
And should the waves the summit win,
I would go through the gate.
For by his side all doubt was dumb,
And terror ceased to foam;
No great sea-billows dared to come,
And tread the holy home.
Two days passed by. With restless toss,
The red flood brake its doors;
Prostrate I lay, and looked across
To the eternal shores.
The world was fair, and hope was nigh,
Some men and women true;
And I was strong, and Death and I
Would have a hard ado.
And so I shrank. But sweet and good
The dream came to my aid;
Within the trees my father stood,
I must not be dismayed.
My grief was his, not mine alone;
The waves that burst in fears,
He heard not only with his own,
But heard them with my ears.
My life and death belong to thee,
For I am thine, O God;
Thy hands have made and fashioned me,
‘Tis thine to bear the load.
And thou shalt bear it. I will try
To be a peaceful child,
Whom in thy arms right tenderly
Thou carriest through the wild.
The rich man mourns his little loss,
And knits the brow of care;
The poor man tries to bear the cross,
And seeks relief in prayer.
Some gold had vanished from my purse,
Which I had watched but ill;
I feared a lack, but feared yet worse
Regret returning still.
And so I knelt and prayed my prayer
To Him who maketh strong,
That no returning thoughts of care
Should do my spirit wrong.
I rose in peace, in comfort went,
And laid me down to rest;
But straight my soul grew confident
With gladness of the blest.
For ere the sleep that care redeems,
My soul such visions had,
That never child in childhood’s dreams
Was more exulting glad.
No white-robed angels floated by
On slow, reposing wings;
I only saw, with inward eye,
Some very common things.
First rose the scarlet pimpernel,
With burning purple heart;
I saw it, and I knew right well
The lesson of its art.
Then came the primrose, childlike flower;
It looked me in the face;
It bore a message full of power,
And confidence, and grace.
And winds arose on uplands wild,
And bathed me like a stream;
And sheep-bells babbled round the child
Who loved them in a dream.
Henceforth my mind was never crossed
By thought of vanished gold,
But with it came the guardian host
Of flowers both meek and bold.
The loss is riches while I live,
A joy I would not lose:
Choose ever, God, what Thou wilt give,
Not leaving me to choose.
“What said the flowers in whisper low,
To soothe me into rest?”
I scarce have words—they seemed to grow
Right out of God’s own breast.
They said, God meant the flowers He made,
As children see the same;
They said the words the lilies said
When Jesus looked at them.
And if you want to hear the flowers
Speak ancient words, all new,
They may, if you, in darksome hours,
Ask God to comfort you.
Our souls, in daylight hours, awake,
With visions sometimes teem,
Which to the slumbering brain would take
The form of wondrous dream.
Thus, once, I saw a level space,
With circling mountains nigh;
And round it grouped all forms of grace,
A goodly company.
And at one end, with gentle rise,
Stood something like a throne;
And thither all the radiant eyes,
As to a centre, shone.
And on the seat the noblest form
Of glory, dim-descried;
His glance would quell all passion-storm,
All doubt, and fear, and pride.
But lo! his eyes far-fixed burn
Adown the widening vale;
The looks of all obedient turn,
And soon those looks are pale.
For, through the shining multitude,
With feeble step and slow,
A weary man, in garments rude,
All falteringly did go.
His face was white, and still-composed,
Like one that had been dead;
The eyes, from eyelids half unclosed,
A faint, wan splendour shed.
And to his brow a strange wreath clung,
And drops of crimson hue;
And his rough hands, oh, sadly wrung!
Were pierced through and through.
And not a look he turned aside;
His eyes were forward bent;
And slow the eyelids opened wide,
As towards the throne he went.
At length he reached the mighty throne,
And sank upon his knees;
And clasped his hands with stifled groan,
And spake in words like these:—
“Father, I am come back—Thy will
Is sometimes hard to do.”
From all the multitude so still,
A sound of weeping grew.
And mournful-glad came down the One,
And kneeled, and clasped His child;
Sank on His breast the outworn man,
And wept until he smiled.
And when their tears had stilled their sighs,
And joy their tears had dried,
The people saw, with lifted eyes,
Them seated side by side.
I lay and dreamed. Three crosses stood
Amid the gloomy air.
Two bore two men—one was the Good;
The third rose waiting, bare.
A Roman soldier, coming by,
Mistook me for the third;
I lifted up my asking eye
For Jesus’ sign or word.
I thought He signed that I should yield,
And give the error way.
I held my peace; no word revealed,
No gesture uttered nay.
Against the cross a scaffold stood,
Whence easy hands could nail
The doomed upon that altar-wood,
Whose fire burns slow and pale.
Upon this ledge he lifted me.
I stood all thoughtful there,
Waiting until the deadly tree
My form for fruit should bear.
Rose up the waves of fear and doubt,
Rose up from heart to brain;
They shut the world of vision out,
And thus they cried amain:
“Ah me! my hands—the hammer’s knock—
The nails—the tearing strength!”
My soul replied: “‘Tis but a shock,
That grows to pain at length.”
“Ah me! the awful fight with death;
The hours to hang and die;
The thirsting gasp for common breath,
That passes heedless by!”
My soul replied: “A faintness soon
Will shroud thee in its fold;
The hours will go,—the fearful noon
Rise, pass—and thou art cold.
“And for thy suffering, what to thee
Is that? or care of thine?
Thou living branch upon the tree
Whose root is the Divine!
“‘Tis His to care that thou endure;
That pain shall grow or fade;
With bleeding hands hang on thy cure,
He knows what He hath made.”
And still, for all the inward wail,
My foot was firmly pressed;
For still the fear lest I should fail
Was stronger than the rest.
And thus I stood, until the strife
The bonds of slumber brake;
I felt as I had ruined life,
Had fled, and come awake.
Yet I was glad, my heart confessed,
The trial went not on;
Glad likewise I had stood the test,
As far as it had gone.
And yet I fear some recreant thought,
Which now I all forget,
That painful feeling in me wrought
Of failure, lingering yet.
And if the dream had had its scope,
I might have fled the field;
But yet I thank Thee for the hope,
And think I dared not yield.
Methinks I hear, as I lie slowly dying,
Indulgent friends say, weeping, “He was good.”
I fail to speak, a faint denial trying,—
They answer, “His humility withstood.”
I, knowing better, part with love unspoken;
And find the unknown world not all unknown.
The bonds that held me from my centre broken,
I seek my home, the Saviour’s homely throne.
How He will greet me, I walk on and wonder;
And think I know what I will say to Him.
I fear no sapphire floor of cloudy thunder,
I fear no passing vision great and dim.
But He knows all my unknown weary story:
How will He judge me, pure, and good, and fair?
I come to Him in all His conquered glory,
Won from such life as I went dreaming there!
I come; I fall before Him, faintly saying:
“Ah, Lord, shall I thy loving favour win?
Earth’s beauties tempted me; my walk was straying—
I have no honour—but may I come in?”
“I know thee well. Strong prayer did keep me stable;
To me the earth is very lovely too.
Thou shouldst have come to me to make thee able
To love it greatly—but thou hast got through.”
© George MacDonald