Come unto Me [poem by Agnes Neale]

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

Come unto Me.

Oh, Lethe! have thy fabled waters vanished?
And is there left us no forgetfulness? —
No sweet oblivion’s dreamless deeps of stillness
Our weary brains and burdened hearts to bless?

Come back, come back to us, O magic river!
And steep our senses in thy soothing waves;
Send us a silence that shall lap our being,
Profound and soundless as the deepest graves.

Our souls are weary with life’s constant moaning;
Our hearts are aching with life’s cruel pain;
Time’s hopes delusions are and baseless visions,
Unsatisfying, mocking all, and vain.

No grain of all its good so highly vaunted
Is worth the surer evil that it brings;
And joy is always drowned in seas of weeping,
And sorrow close to gladness ever clings.

Oh, Lethe, Lethe, hast thou fled for ever?
And is thy dreamless fount for ever sealed?
Are earth and heaven alike, cold and uncaring,
Against the crying of their children steeled.

Oh! must we ever search in vain for friendship?
Comes there no ending to our fruitless quest?
Is there no strength whereon our souls reposing
May find exchange for toil in blessed rest?

The friends we trusted most they most have failed us;
Those we believed most true are falsest shown;
Words do but mock us, promises are empty,
Sunless and meaningless all life has grown.

Is there no respite from time’s gnawing anguish,
And no nepenthe from life’s bitter woe?
No mighty hand whose touch so soft, so tender,
Can check the blinding floods of tears that flow?

Oh, souls grown weary with your search for friendship,
Oh, hearts grown bitter in your fruitless quest,
List to the voice that sweeps along the ages —
“Come unto me, and I will give you rest!”

Only within His arms can we find shelter,
And consolation in His love alone;
All truth, all purity, and, oh! all friendship,
Comes from our taking from the great white throne.

Agnes Neale, Shadows and Sunbeams, Adelaide: Burden & Bonython, 1890, pages 49-51

Editor’s notes:
Lethe = in Greek mythology, Lethe was the river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers in Hades; Lethe can also refer to an alcoholic drink, or a condition of forgetfulness or oblivion

list = (archaic) listen

nepenthe = an ancient drug (mentioned in Book 4 of Homer’s Odyssey) which gives its users a pleasurable sensation, enabling them to forget their troubles and worries, banishing grief and woes; may also refer to something which causes a similar effect (properly, the word should be rendered with an “s”, from the Latin “nepenthes”, however the “s” was dropped in the mistaken belief that it indicated a plural)

Old spelling in the original text:
hast (have)
thou (you)
thy (your)

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