Repentance [poem by Menie Parkes]

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


The Lady stood, with a bended head,
And silently wept by the House of the Dead;
The Pastor spoke, and, sadly and low,
Told the tale of the two who lay sleeping below.

“They missed her, the lost one! they missed her that night;
They sought thro’ the woods by the waning moon’s light,
They sought on the shore at the morning’s pale dawn;
Ah, sad fell that night, and dark rose that morn! —
They found not the child they had cherished so long,
Oh, deeply that frail girl her parents did wrong!
From that hour, in calm anguish, they silently sank, —
The grass on their lone grave groweth straggling and dank!”

The Lady’s tears fell freely down:—
The Pastor’s brow wore a heavy frown:
He thought on the friends grief had done to death,
And he spoke with reproach in every breath.

“She may laugh in the arms that so lured her to flight,
But never, within them, shall break on her sight
One moment so blest as the years of her youth,
Ere yet she had parted with honor and truth,
Ere yet she had furrowed her old mother’s brow,
And her father’s scant locks she had sprinkled with snow.
There shall haunt her thro’ life the hour of remorse,
And the shade of a parent’s grief-stricken corse!”

The Lady fell, with a shriek of woe,
Prostrate upon the grave below,
And, face pressed down to the clammy sod,
She wailed in the sight of a well-pleased God.

“My grief is puny,” she said, “Oh, Lord!
My woe is weak to atone my guilt!
Along life’s suffering could never retrieve
One hour of the lives I’ve spilt.
I have sinned,” she said, “in thy sight, O Lord,
So deeply, I dare not to crave
Thy pardon from any spot on this earth
But here from my parents’ grave:
And, because I slew them, O, my God,
And nearly my own soul too,
Do I lay me down on this sacred sod,
And thy boundless mercy sue.
I have no power that can speak my shame,
I have no voice to recount my blame;
The Christ who has died alone can cover them,
And pour the blood of his pardon over them:
I ask not for rest from the shame of the world,
I seek not escape from its cold-hearted spurning,
I bear with the taunts at my penitence hurled;
But to thee, Oh Forgiver, my heart is upburning,
That only, at last, I may look once more
In my father’s eyes as I’ve looked before,
And lean in peace on my mother’s breast,
Forgiven, again to her bosom prest.
Oh, God, is it wrong? Should I look to thee,
And forbear to ask for the love of these?
Enough, enough if thou look on me!
Do with me, Father, as thou dost please.”

The Lady ceased, and sobbed aloud,
And moaned by the side of the holy dead:
The Pastor sighed; yet he smiled as one
Whom God has heard, and he pressed her head.

“Lady, arise! for, in God’s great name,
I dare to thee pardon and peace proclaim:
Not one who has sinned too far to win
Forgiveness from God for forsaken sin.
Then, penitent, rise! for the love of God
Shall go with thee now from this mournful sod.
And be sure thou shalt meet with thy parents in Heaven,
By them, as by Him, received and forgiven.”

The Lady rose: there was light in her eyes,
As she lifted them, wet, to the beaming skies.
She passed from that grave; she was seen no more;
But the waves of Life, that break on the shore
Of the world to come, shall cast at the last
That soul, with its terrible anguish past,
Still with the certain winning of bliss,
And the new-found touch of a pardoning kiss,
Into the light and the rapture of Heaven, —
Loving the more for the much forgiven.

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 29-31

Editor’s notes:
corse = (archaic) corpse

Forgiver = in a religious context, Jesus or God

prest = pressed (as distinct from two archaic meanings: ready, or, a loan of money)

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