She moaned in sorrow wearily,
“O Life, stern Life, thou art too long;
Thy hours pass slow and drearily,
Thy scorching sunglare is too strong;
Thy moonbeams gleam too faint and pale,
Thy waning stars are dim above;
O Life, I do thy length be wail;
O Life, stern Life, thou art not Love!”
She turned her to the little child
That played in mirth around her knee;
The tears stood in her eyes that smiled;
She whispered, “Baby, love thou me!”
The child looked up with wondrous grace,
And, child-like, kissed her drooping brow,
And laid its sweet, soft, baby face
On hers that shone, love-circled now.
But ah, too soon, too soon its play
And playmates crossed the infant’s mind,
It slowly, gently stole away,
And left that weeping girl behind.
She sought the cherished friend of youth,
And “Love me, friend,” she cried;
The glance she met was firm as truth,
“Thou hast my love,” that glance replied.
But soon the world did claim that friend,
For one like her too gay, too fair;
She turned her onward path to wend,
And left that sad one weeping there.
Then went she to an elder guide,
Whose hair was thin and snow-besprent,
And knelt in rapture by her side,
While words of mild intent
Fell from the lips revered and dear
Upon her parched and barren heart:
She knew not then of fear or tear,
Content to bear the listener’s part.
God raised his voice that friend to call,
He dashed love’s one uncertain claim:
Poor girl! while crushed Life’s All-in-All,
She knew no refuge in His name.
So lovers, friends, nay, husband came,
And children gathered on her path,
And wealth and pleasure, honour, fame,
And love combined to spare her scathe:
But not the world itself could still
That weary, wailing cry of grief —
“Oh, Life, thou art a thing of ill,
And perfect Love thy sole relief!”
Then, maddened by her discontent,
She prayed the World some love to show;
The World her glittering garlands lent;
And robes of ample, stately flow;
But not a flower those garlands bore
That did not hide some aspen’s sting;
But not a fold of those fair robes
That did not cold and icy cling.
Oh, lorn indeed the human soul
That seeks from earth the peace of love,
And chains the heart in earth’s control,
From seeking for that peace above.
She failed: and so at last she knelt
With shattered hopes and broken joys,
And all her griefs to tears do melt —
One only thought her soul employs:—
“Forgive, forgive!” The answer came,
Solemn and stern, and cold and calm,
“Thou art too late! I ceased to call:
I have withdrawn my sheltering arm.”
She wept: but owned the sentence just;
In silence bowed her dooméd head;
But spoke a softer voice, yet firm,
In pleading tones — “I died!” it said.
“He died!” a myriad tongues exclaimed;
“He died!” the echoing heavens proclaim.
That woman blushed, by Love ashamed,
And lowly murmured Jesu’s name;
“I, I am Love!” the Saviour cried:
That woman clasped the Cross, and died.
Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, , pages 52-54
aspen = apparently a reference to an asp (snake), rather than an aspen tree
besprent = besprinkle, sprinkled over
Jesu = (archaic) an alternative poetic spelling of “Jesus”
lorn = bereft, desolate, forlorn, forsaken, wretched
scathe = harm, injure; criticise, denounce