We Wait for Light [poem by Agnes Neale]

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

We Wait for Light.

Up from the world, sunk in the depths of darkness,
Up to the cold arch of the far blue sky,
Up from sad hearts that groan in pain and anguish,
There rises ever the same woful cry.
The wail rings on through all the passing ages,
Millions of voices blent in one sad moan,
Swaying around the footstool of the Godhead,
Threatening to take by force the Great White Throne
“Amid the awful blackness of the night,
We wait for light, Great God; we wait for light.”

Like children, sobbing in the gloom of midnight,
With weak hands vainly beating in the dark,
With trembling hearts, all sore from bitter weeping,
We strain our eyes in vain for one glad spark.
We are afraid — our lips grow pale with horror,
Through the cold veins the slow blood will not flow,
And sometimes, overmastered by our anguish,
We sink beneath our crushing weight of woe;
And still our shaking lips, all stiff and white,
Breathe out that woful cry — We wait for light!

We know not what we fear; our hearts are haunted
By shapeless phantoms moving through the gloom:
Our hands are ever grasping after shadows;
The air seems full of whispered words of doom;
If we could see — if but the light would glimmer
And show the pathway that our feet must tread;
Could we but know if that the forms that haunt us
Are the lov’d living or the nameless dead;
If but, athwart the darkness of our night,
Would fall the glory of the golden light.

Our feet seem ever slipping o’er abysses,
Down whose dark yawning depths we dare not gaze.
Oh! if the light would only shine around us
The glorious splendor of the noontide blaze!
Our souls are sick with dread of unknown dangers;
We sink o’erwhelmed beneath a black despair;
We have no strength to fight, no heart to struggle;
We would seek help, but know not how or where.
In thicker darkness than Egyptian night
We wait, in shuddering horror, for the light.

The sky is grey, without one rift across it;
The earth is sodden with the heavy rain —
Has spring’s glad beauty died and been forgotten?
Has summer’s splendid glory blazed in vain?
Have our departed gone away for ever?
Where are they now, the lost belovéd dead?
In what vast soul-realms are they waiting for us?
What pathway did their spirit footsteps tread?
We cannot tell, but somewhere, far from night,
Their souls are bathed in God’s eternal light.

Are theirs the forms we dimly see around us?
Are theirs the hands that touch us through the gloom?
Are theirs the words that come in whispers to us
Across the solemn stillness of the tomb?
If we but knew that these were our belovéd,
We should not cry in such heart-broken way;
If we but knew that they were round about us,
Then should we know we were not far from day.
For somewhere near our lov’d ones must be light;
Have they not gone for ever from the night?

Yes, somewhere, somewhere far across the hilltops
The golden day is waiting to be born;
What if the blackness of the night is round us?
The darkest hour is just before the morn!
And presently from out the sky above us
Will fall the daylight like a white-winged bird,
And we shall know, beyond all doubt or question,
That every frantic prayer for light was heard;
Aye, we shall know it when the realm of night
Is flooded, lost, in God’s great sea of light.

Agnes Neale, Shadows and Sunbeams, Adelaide: Burden & Bonython, 1890, pages 25-27

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

athwart = across

blent = blended

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

woful = an alternate spelling of “woeful”

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