Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
921. Absolution
By Edward Willard Watson

PRIEST of God, unto thee I come;
Day doth dawn, though the mist lies deep.
Trembling with dread from my home I fled;
I have slain a man in the land of sleep.
Him I met in a region dim,        5
Where ever the sun shines faint and low,
Where the moon is far as a tiny star,
And rivers speed with a noiseless flow.
In the tangled wood he was lying hid;
But I saw him lurking, and then I knew        10
’T was the soul of the one since time begun
That had made me false when I would be true.
My heart was hot and my anger fierce;
I knew in my dreaming his life I sought.
But with all my power, as I saw him cower,        15
I willed the deed that my hands have wrought.
Ask me not if his name I know,
For all the rest of my dream is hid;
I only remember the river’s flow,
And the dim gray light and the deed I did.        20
But demons of death and hate that wait
For the soul that sins, my soul pursue,
And my hands are red with the blood of the dead,
And ever they cry the long hours through:
“Murderer, though in dreams and sleep,        25
Done is the deed with thy soul’s consent,
And there is no hope for Heaven’s gate to ope,
Nor will men have pity nor God relent.”

Son, no sin on thy soul doth rest;
Blood shows not on thy trembling hands.        30
Unto thee can cling no awful thing;
Thy soul was roaming in unreal lands.
’T was but a dream when all things seem
Mingled with fantasy strange and wild,
And the soul of man, do the worst it can,        35
Is sinless in slumber and undefiled.
For life is the life of the waking day;
Time enough in it for crime and sin.
But we sleep in the hours, like the sinless flowers
That heed not the world and its maddening din.        40

Out from the living, O God, I creep,
Naked and chill, to thy silent land;
Friend have I none, I stand alone,
To wait my doom at thy mighty hand.
Naked and chill, though wrapped in sin,        45
In the dark and cold with only thee,
Nor glint of a star that ’s faint and far,
To light the night of thy world for me.
Whither, O God, wilt thou send the soul
Thou hast planted on earth and plucked away?        50
For it grew, with the weeds of its evil deeds,
In the wood and fen, in the mire and clay.

Child of the earth, thou fragile flower
Bending down to the wind that blew,
Life shall seem but an evil dream;        55
Wake to the life that is real and true.
Cease thy dreaming, the world forget;
Lulled be the pain I made thee bear.
Sin and shame are only the name
Of the lesson I taught thee in sorrow there.        60
Thou hast learned how the soul of man
Lifts, through error, its heart on high,
Up from the sin I placed it in,
To the bright, clear light in the starry sky.
Ages hence, when thy world and stars        65
Fade away in the mist they are,
Thou shalt weep, and in pity creep
Back to the life of some lonely star.
Love shall well in thy heart, and tears
Fall for the sorrows thou couldst not know        70
But for the years of sins and fears
Spent in the dream of thy life below.


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