Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
At Sundown
Between the Gates
BETWEEN the gates of birth and death
  An old and saintly pilgrim passed,
With look of one who witnesseth
  The long-sought goal at last.
“O thou whose reverent feet have found        5
  The Master’s footprints in thy way,
And walked thereon as holy ground,
  A boon of thee I pray.
“My lack would borrow thy excess,
  My feeble faith the strength of thine;        10
I need thy soul’s white saintliness
  To hide the stains of mine.
“The grace and favor else denied
  May well be granted for thy sake.”
So, tempted, doubting, sorely tried,        15
  A younger pilgrim spake.
“Thy prayer, my son, transcends my gift;
  No power is mine,” the sage replied,
“The burden of a soul to lift
  Or stain of sin to hide.        20
“Howe’er the outward life may seem,
  For pardoning grace we all must pray;
No man his brother can redeem
  Or a soul’s ransom pay.
“Not always age is growth of good;        25
  Its years have losses with their gain;
Against some evil youth withstood
  Weak hands may strive in vain.
“With deeper voice than any speech
  Of mortal lips from man to man,        30
What earth’s unwisdom may not teach
  The Spirit only can.
“Make thou that holy guide thine own,
  And following where it leads the way,
The known shall lapse in the unknown        35
  As twilight into day.
“The best of earth shall still remain,
  And heaven’s eternal years shall prove
That life and death, and joy and pain,
  Are ministers of Love.”        40

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