Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
VI. Human Experience
The Pastor’s Reverie
Washington Gladden (1836–1918)
THE PASTOR sits in his easy-chair,
  With the Bible upon his knee.
From gold to purple the clouds in the west
  Are changing momently;
The shadows lie in the valleys below,        5
  And hide in the curtain’s fold;
And the page grows dim whereon he reads,
  “I remember the days of old.”
“Not clear nor dark,” as the Scripture saith,
  The pastor’s memories are;        10
No day that is gone was shadowless,
  No night was without its star;
But mingled bitter and sweet hath been
  The portion of his cup:
“The hand that in love hath smitten,” he saith,        15
  “In love hath bound us up.”
Fleet flies his thoughts over many a field
  Of stubble and snow and bloom,
And now it trips through a festival,
  And now it halts at a tomb;        20
Young faces smile in his reverie,
  Of those that are young no more,
And voices are heard that only come
  With the winds from a far-off shore.
He thinks of the day when first, with fear        25
  And faltering lips, he stood
To speak in the sacred place the Word
  To the waiting multitude;
He walks again to the house of God
  With the voice of joy and praise,        30
With many whose feet long time have pressed
  Heaven’s safe and blessèd ways.
He enters again the homes of toil,
  And joins in the homely chat;
He stands in the shop of the artisan;        35
  He sits, where the Master sat,
At the poor man’s fire and the rich man’s feast.
  But who to-day are the poor,
And who are the rich? Ask him who keeps
  The treasures that ever endure.        40
Once more the green and the grove resound
  With the merry children’s din;
He hears their shout at the Christmas tide,
  When Santa Claus stalks in.
Once more he lists while the camp-fire roars        45
  On the distant mountain-side,
Or, proving apostleship, plies the brook
  Where the fierce young troutlings hide.
And now he beholds the wedding train
  To the altar slowly move,        50
And the solemn words are said that seal
  The sacrament of love.
Anon at the font he meets once more
  The tremulous youthful pair,
With a white-robed cherub crowing response        55
  To the consecrating prayer.
By the couch of pain he kneels again;
  Again, the thin hand lies
Cold in his palm, while the last far look
  Steals into the steadfast eyes;        60
And now the burden of hearts that break
  Lies heavy upon his own—
The widow’s woe and the orphan’s cry
  And the desolate mother’s moan.
So blithe and glad, so heavy and sad,        65
  Are the days that are no more,
So mournfully sweet are the sounds that float
  With the winds from a far-off shore.
For the pastor has learned what meaneth the word
  That is given him to keep,—        70
“Rejoice with them that do rejoice,
  And weep with them that weep.”
It is not in vain that he has trod
  This lonely and toilsome way.
It is not in vain that he has wrought        75
  In the vineyard all the day;
For the soul that gives is the soul that lives,
  And bearing another’s load
Doth lighten your own and shorten the way,
  And brighten the homeward road.        80

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