Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
A Parable of the Spirit
 
John Arthur Goodchild (b. 1851)
 
 
I CAME in light that I might behold
The shadow which shut me apart of old.
Lo, it was lying robed in white,
With the still palms crossed o’er a lily, bright
With salt rain of tears; and everywhere        5
Around lay blossoms that filled the air
With perfume, snow of flowers that hid
The snow of the silken coverlid
With myrtle and orange bloom and store
Of jasmine stars, and a wreath it wore        10
Of stephanotis. Still it lay,
For its time of travail had passed away.
“Of old it was never so fair as this,”
I said, as I bent me down to kiss
The cast swathing robe. “It is well that so        15
I see it before I turn to go—
Turn to depart that I may bless
The love that has shown such tenderness.”
 
So I passed to my mother’s side,
Where she lay sleepless and weary-eyed;        20
Glided within, that I might see
The chamber her love had reserved for me.
It was wide and warm, and furnished forth
With the best she had, with gifts of worth,
Anxious watchings and tears and prayers        25
And ministrations of many years.
I bent me down o’er her wrinkled brow
And kissed it smooth, as I whispered low
Comfort and hope for her daughter dear,
Till my whisper drew forth the healing tear.        30
Last, I kissed her to slumber deep,
Kissed her to quiet rest and sleep.
 
I passed to my sister’s heart, and there
I heard sweet notes of her soaring prayer;
And, joining therewith, found the fair white shrine        35
That her love had set apart as mine.
On its alabaster altar stood
A vessel with sacrificial blood.
Incense of sweet unselfishness
Rose ever, a pillar of light to bless        40
That fair pure place with its flower-sweet fume.
Dimmed was that shrine by no cloud of gloom,
But bright shone that pillar which rose above
On her earthly jewels with its lambent love.
So I knew that any gift of mine        45
Was naught by her treasure of love divine,
Flowing freely down; but a flower I lent
That would bloom in her bosom with sweet content,
’T was forget-me-not. “Though poor,” I said,
“Mid her blossoms of living love, the dead        50
Would yet be loved, and I will that she
Keep this, and render it back to me.”
I knew how my blossom would live and grow,
As I kissed it once ere I turned to go;
 
Turned to go to my cousin Kate—        55
She who was rival to me of late,
Jealous, unhappy, but in the end
Nursed me and tended me like a friend.
I searched her heart, and soon I found
A plot of mine in her garden ground;        60
Flowers were there which had ripened seed,
But among them many a yellow weed.
Still, I saw with a gladdened eye
The weeds were pining and like to die,
Whilst heartsease throve, and sprigs of rue        65
Watered well with remorseful dew.
So I bent down and rooted out
Nettles of envy, and round about
Cleared the ground that the flowers might live,
Live and blossom and grow and thrive.        70
Lastly, I drew with cords of love
A thistle of pride naught else might move,
Pressed her forehead and swiftly passed—
For I kept my best gifts to the last—
Treasures of comfort and hope to cheer        75
The heart which my own had held most dear.
 
I dreamed of the bliss that I should feel
When that opened heart should to me reveal
Its fulness, before but dimly seen,
As I lifted its veils and entered in—        80
Entered, and saw with mute amaze
How squalid and narrow was the place.
Still, I fancied, perchance for me
The best of that which is here may be.
Searching in dusk, I forced my way        85
To the secret place where my chamber lay,
Choked with the sordid piles o’erthrown
Of a miser’s dust which had been my own,
Till but little space for me remained,
All being filthy and weather-stained;        90
Whilst evil fungi, spawn of lust,
Pushed through the rotten floor, and thrust
Unsightly growths in that evil space,
And vanity pressed in the crowded space
Till room was scanty for me to tread.        95
I gazed shadowed a moment before I fled,
For no gift of mine of love or care
Might live in that pestilential air;
Still, for the love of dreams bygone,
I could not leave him quite alone,        100
So I planted cypress to warn of death.
It might live, and its keen balsamic breath
Would wither these fungi one by one,
Giving entrance, perchance, to some ray of sun.
 
Then I departed, earth’s lesson o’er.        105
Never henceforth shall I enter more;
And the thought was mine of former dread
And former longings, and so I said,
“Blind I was when my dearest wish
Was ever to dwell in a home like this.”        110
Knew, as I went forth to my rest,
My prayer was a child’s, and God knew best.
 

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