Hymns by John Greenleaf Whittier
FROM THE FRENCH OF LAMARTINE
“Encore un hymne, O ma lyre
Un hymn pour le Seigneur,
Un hymne dans mon delire,
Un hymne dans mon bonheur.”
One hymn more, O my lyre!
Praise to the God above,
Of joy and life and love,
Sweeping its strings of fire!
Oh, who the speed of bird and wind
And sunbeam’s glance will lend to me,
That, soaring upward, I may find
My resting-place and home in Thee?
Thou, whom my soul, midst doubt and gloom,
Adoreth with a fervent flame,–
Mysterious spirit! unto whom
Pertain nor sign nor name!
Swiftly my lyre’s soft murmurs go,
Up from the cold and joyless earth,
Back to the God who bade them flow,
Whose moving spirit sent them forth.
But as for me, O God! for me,
The lowly creature of Thy will,
Lingering and sad, I sigh to Thee,
An earth-bound pilgrim still!
Was not my spirit born to shine
Where yonder stars and suns are glowing?
To breathe with them the light divine
From God’s own holy altar flowing?
To be, indeed, whate’er the soul
In dreams hath thirsted for so long,–
A portion of heaven’s glorious whole
Of loveliness and song?
Oh, watchers of the stars at night,
Who breathe their fire, as we the air,–
Suns, thunders, stars, and rays of light,
Oh, say, is He, the Eternal, there?
Bend there around His awful throne
The seraph’s glance, the angel’s knee?
Or are thy inmost depths His own,
O wild and mighty sea?
Thoughts of my soul, how swift ye go!
Swift as the eagle’s glance of fire,
Or arrows from the archer’s bow,
To the far aim of your desire!
Thought after thought, ye thronging rise,
Like spring-doves from the startled wood,
Bearing like them your sacrifice
Of music unto God!
And shall these thoughts of joy and love
Come back again no more to me?
Returning like the patriarch’s dove
Wing-weary from the eternal sea,
To bear within my longing arms
The promise-bough of kindlier skies,
Plucked from the green, immortal palms
Which shadow Paradise?
All-moving spirit! freely forth
At Thy command the strong wind goes
Its errand to the passive earth,
Nor art can stay, nor strength oppose,
Until it folds its weary wing
Once more within the hand divine;
So, weary from its wandering,
My spirit turns to Thine!
Child of the sea, the mountain stream,
From its dark caverns, hurries on,
Ceaseless, by night and morning’s beam,
By evening’s star and noontide’s sun,
Until at last it sinks to rest,
O’erwearied, in the waiting sea,
And moans upon its mother’s breast,–
So turns my soul to Thee!
O Thou who bidst the torrent flow,
Who lendest wings unto the wind,–
Mover of all things! where art Thou?
Oh, whither shall I go to find
The secret of Thy resting-place?
Is there no holy wing for me,
That, soaring, I may search the space
Of highest heaven for Thee?
Oh, would I were as free to rise
As leaves on autumn’s whirlwind borne,–
The arrowy light of sunset skies,
Or sound, or ray, or star of morn,
Which melts in heaven at twilight’s close,
Or aught which soars unchecked and free
Through earth and heaven; that I might lose
Myself in finding Thee!
LE CRI DE L’AME.
“Quand le souffle divin qui flotte sur le monde.”
When the breath divine is flowing,
Zephyr-like o’er all things going,
And, as the touch of viewless fingers,
Softly on my soul it lingers,
Open to a breath the lightest,
Conscious of a touch the slightest,–
As some calm, still lake, whereon
Sinks the snowy-bosomed swan,
And the glistening water-rings
Circle round her moving wings
When my upward gaze is turning
Where the stars of heaven are burning
Through the deep and dark abyss,
Flowers of midnight’s wilderness,
Blowing with the evening’s breath
Sweetly in their Maker’s path
When the breaking day is flushing
All the east, and light is gushing
Upward through the horizon’s haze,
Sheaf-like, with its thousand rays,
Spreading, until all above
Overflows with joy and love,
And below, on earth’s green bosom,
All is changed to light and blossom:
When my waking fancies over
Forms of brightness flit and hover
Holy as the seraphs are,
Who by Zion’s fountains wear
On their foreheads, white and broad,
“Holiness unto the Lord!”
When, inspired with rapture high,
It would seem a single sigh
Could a world of love create;
That my life could know no date,
And my eager thoughts could fill
Heaven and Earth, o’erflowing still!
Then, O Father! Thou alone,
From the shadow of Thy throne,
To the sighing of my breast
And its rapture answerest.
All my thoughts, which, upward winging,
Bathe where Thy own light is springing,–
All my yearnings to be free
Are at echoes answering Thee!
Seldom upon lips of mine,
Father! rests that name of Thine;
Deep within my inmost breast,
In the secret place of mind,
Like an awful presence shrined,
Doth the dread idea rest
Hushed and holy dwells it there,
Prompter of the silent prayer,
Lifting up my spirit’s eye
And its faint, but earnest cry,
From its dark and cold abode,
Unto Thee, my Guide and God!