Assist the Blind to Help Themselves [poem by Agnes Neale]

[Editor: This poem by Agnes Neale was published in Shadows and Sunbeams (1890).]

Assist the Blind to Help Themselves.

An Appeal on Behalf of the Blind.

[The following lines were composed by “Agnes Neale,” and read at an entertainment given in aid of the Trade Industrial School for the Blind, Friday evening, April 10, 1885.]

All things are lovely! all the world is glad,
The humming-bird, that floats on jewelled wing,
The blossoms fair as pictured smiles of God,
That in such crowds of dainty sweetness spring.

All things are glad, they sing for very joy;
The music of all nature, sweet and strong,
Ceaselessly rises to the throne of God —
The earth is girdled with a flood of song.

But through the full, triumphant burst of joy
Do we not hear, again and yet again,
An undertone of saddest melody —
The soft low sighing of unspoken pain?

What is that sigh that through earth’s music breathes?
What is that moan earth’s laughter cannot hide?
What pain unspoken ’mid the beauty dwells
Through all the world, so glorious, fair and wide?

Ah! there are those to whom the light of day
Means nothing but an idle, empty sound;
Who never watch the seasons in their course
Clothe earth with loveliness, the whole year round.

They never see the sunset splendors lie
In purple depths, and floods of crimson light;
They never see the stars like jewels shine
Along the dusky tresses of the night.

Pity the blind! Aye, for the Lord’s dear sake,
Pity the souls so mournfully bereft;
Of all your blessings, which would you not give
To have that blessed gift of seeing left?

Pity the blind ! Oh, listen to their cry,
Like Samson, wailing in his awful night;
Forever hidden from the glorious noon,
Forever banished from the lovely light.

No sun, no moon, no stars, no trees, nor flowers,
No wide expanse of heaving, bounding wave;
For these, the beauty of the earth is not —
For these, all seeing lies beyond the grave!

List to their sighing through the weary days —
The days that hold, for them, no change from night;
List to their low sad moan of bitter pain —
A vocal shadow on the golden light.

“We never see the daylight that you love
Sweep through the gates of dawn, and flood the skies,
While in the growing white the morning star,
All tremulous with tender radiance lies.

“God help us! for we never saw a flower,
Beneath the kisses of the sun, expand
From the close-folded, green, unconscious bud
To the full blossom, stately, fair and grand.

“And all the sights of nature that you see;
Her moods and changes, April smiles and tears —
Her winter tempests and her summer blaze,
Her phases, old, yet new, through all the year.

“We never see — nothing but rayless night
Lies round about us, dreary, sad, forlorn;
One long, monotonous, unbroken gloom —
For us no shaded eve, no dewy morn.”

I think, when Jesus walked the hills and plains
Of far Judea, and to Him were brought
The sick, the halt, the suffering of all kind,
And for their woe His help divine was sought,

I think He looked most tenderly on those
Who never had beheld the light of day,
Who from the beauty and the joy of earth
In starless darkness had been hid away.

I seem to see, e’en now, the Man Divine,
The human God, with God-like tenderness,
Touch the sealed eyes and bid the light flow in,
And with its gladness all their being bless.

And He was our example; what He did
We too should try to do, as best we may;
We cannot touch blind eyes, and bid them see
The glorious splendor of the golden day.

God does not bid us work some miracle,
He claims no task from us beyond our might,
But only that our hands should ready be
To work as we should work within His sight.

Help these to help themselves, we ask no more,
Give them the power by their own skill to live;
Bless these sad lives with interest like your own,
And light and gladness in their darkness give.

Teach them to work, so that man’s truest good
May still be theirs, robbed of so much beside;
Give them the power to live a useful life,
E’en though life’s loveliness should be denied.

What though the work be lowly, so was Christ’s,
And He has sanctified by His dear touch
All labor, be it of what kind it will —
Teach them to help themselves, it is not much.

It is not much to you whose lives are full
And glad with life’s unutterable joy,
To teach these helpless hands some simple craft,
And in glad work their weary hours employ.

Not much to you, but all of life to them,
And more of need than you can ever know.
O Christians, did your Master come to you,
Would you indifference to His wishes show?

Nay, surely, yet He comes to you e’en now,
As He has come so many times before:
For His dear sake, oh! give these what we ask,
Help them to help themselves — we ask no more.

What if our eyes were holden? What if we
Could never more behold the light of day?
What if the summer noontide’s splendid blaze
Could pierce our blackness with no golden ray?

God only makes us differ, God alone;
And just as they are we ourselves might be;
God might bend down towards us any day
And touch our eyes, and bid us no more see!

We are but human, too, so for the sake
Of dear humanity stretch forth your hand
To help as best you may the stricken ones,
Who all along life’s wayside waiting stand.

Waiting for Jesus! Waiting sad and still,
To hear the rush of countless, passing feet;
Waiting until the multitude pass by,
And they shall feel His presence calm and sweet.

Waiting for Jesus! shall they wait in vain?
Stricken with sorrow that no touch can heal,
Or shall they in the help of loving hands
The blessed presence of the Master feel?

Waiting for Jesus! and He bids us go
And in His name soothe every grief and pain;
We, who the master represent below;
Waiting for Jesus! Shall they wait in vain?



Source:
Agnes Neale, Shadows and Sunbeams, Adelaide: Burden & Bonython, 1890, pages 61-65

Editor’s notes:
aye = yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

e’en = even

eve = evening

list = (archaic) listen

Lord = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to Jesus or God

the Man Divine = in a Christian religious context, a reference to Jesus

Master = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to Jesus or God

’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.

morn = morning

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