Despair and Hope [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867).]

Despair and Hope.

A blackness had gathered above my life,
Like the pall of a cloudy night,
And I trembled and shook in the horror vast,
In the grasp of a dread affright.

For I knew that the awful Heavens
With lightnings and hail were fraught;
That the bolts of wrath they carried,
My doom and destruction sought.

I quailed, for already the lightnings
Flashed in the distance now;
And I thought they would soon be writhing
Their fire-snake around my brow.

I quailed and I wept, for already
The heart of my once loving God
Had driven me out from its shelter,
To shudder beneath his rod.

And down on the darkened earth’s face
I fell in my abject fear,
And grovelled in silent despairing,
With none but the wrath God near.

And then, in my utter madness,
I started, and fain would throw
Defiance unto the Mighty,
Who left me so helpless below.

But while my hand was uplifted
I saw, in the happy west,
That aside the cloud had drifted,
Where a bright star sought its rest.

And still as I looked and wondered,
The cloud-racks were upward raised,
And the stars came out in myriads —
Oh God, oh God, be praised!

A pressure of warmth around me,
A touch on my weary brow,
An arm that I knew enwound me,
And drew my rash arm low.

And oh, when I turned in gladness,
And hid my head in His heart,
And pleaded, in deep contrition
My prayer — He would never depart.

He said, in his gentle accents,
He had never withdrawn his arm,
But that I, in my foolish phantasms
Had done him a traitor’s harm.

He said, and he smiled as he said it,
There was need of his nurture and care,
There was need of his washing and cleansing,
There was need of my watching and prayer.

There was need, he said, of his blood-bath,
Of his golden fetters need,
And need, he said, in my favour,
He our Father’s grace should plead.

And then, oh, the brilliant Heavens
Were darkness to his great love! —
I knelt, and the laving waters
Went rolling my soul above.

I knelt for the golden fetters
To bind me away from harm,
And I saw him take the farther end
And link it around his arm.

And “Go thou forth, beloved,”
I heard the whispering tone,
“And walk with careful footsteps,
“Thou shalt not walk alone.

“Remember, if thou draggest
“Upon my love-wrought claim,
“Thou canst not break thy fetter,
“But thou canst give me pain.

“I will not loose thy spirit,
“Altho’ thy sin I know;
“Thou shalt my love inherit, —
“I will not let thee go.”

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 100-103

Editor’s notes:
phantasms = a fantasy, figment of the imagination; apparition, illusion; or, ghost, specter

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