Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
IV. The Little Fair Soul
By Menella Bute Smedley (1820–1877)
(A Parable)

A LITTLE fair soul that knew not sin
  Looked over the edge of Paradise,
And saw one striving to come in
  With fear and tumult in his eyes.
“Oh, brother, is it you?” he cried;        5
  “Your face is like a breath from home;
Why do you stay so long outside?
  I am athirst for you to come!
“Tell me first how our mother fares,
  And has she wept too much for me?”        10
“White are her cheeks and white her hairs,
  But not from gentle tears for thee.”
“Tell me where are our sisters gone?”
  “Alas, I left them weary and wan.”
“And tell me, is the baby grown?”        15
  “Alas, he is almost a man.
“Cannot you break the gathering days
  And let the light of death come through,
Ere his feet stumble in the maze
  Crossed safely by so few, so few?        20
“For like a cloud upon the sea
  That darkens till you find no shore,
So was the face of life to me,
  Until I sank for evermore;
“And like an army in the snow        25
  My days went by, a treacherous train,
Each smiling as he struck his blow,
  Until I lay among them, slain.”
“Oh, brother, there was a path so clear!”
  “There might be, but I never sought.”        30
“Oh, brother, there was a sword so near!”
  “There might be, but I never fought.”
“Yet sweep this needless gloom aside,
  For you are come to the gate at last!”
Then in despair that soul replied,        35
  “The gate is fast, the gate is fast!”
“I cannot move this mighty weight,
  I cannot find this golden key,
But hosts of heaven around us wait,
  And none has ever said ‘No’ to me.        40
“Sweet Saint, put by thy palm and scroll,
  And come undo the door for me!”
“Rest thee still, thou little fair soul,
  It is not mine to keep the key.”
“Kind Angel, strike these doors apart!        45
  The air without is dark and cold.”
“Rest thee still, thou little pure heart,
  Not for my word will they unfold.”
Up all the shining heights he prayed
  For that poor Shadow in the cold!        50
Still came the word, “Not ours to aid;
  We cannot make the doors unfold.”
But that poor Shadow, still outside,
  Wrung all the sacred air with pain,
And all the souls went up and cried        55
  Where never cry was heard in vain.
No eye beheld the pitying Face,
  The answer none might understand,
But dimly through the silent space
  Was seen the stretching of a Hand.        60

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