James D. Corrothers, "The Peace of God" (1904)
I sat at eve, as the sun sunk low,
And the shadows grew, and the dark came down,
Where the sea moved restlessly to and fro,
At the foot of a dreamy, old, picturesque town,
And I listened and dreamt to the sea's mournful sound,
And my heart beat heavy and sad and slow
As the waves that moaned on the sands below,
While the ships went by, and the night fell 'round.
And I thought of the friendships that faded away,
And the lost hopes that left me so sad and alone;
Ambitions that towered and fell to decay;
And many a loved one, long silent and gone,-
Dear virtues, as pure as the clouds that looked down,
So, white, o'er that dreamy, old, picturesque town;-
And my heart beat heavy and sad and slow,
As I turned the dim leaves of the dear long ago,
And watched the ships pass, as the night fell 'round.
And I thought, as the ghoulish dark crept o'er the land,
Of a sweet, dreamy face, like the meadows in May;
And the soft, thrilling touch of a pretty, brown hand;
And a love that died as the beautiful day
Had perished that night, in that heedless old town, -
With its spires all white, and its hills all brown;-
But my dream died, too, in its bed of woe,
And the waves made its dirge on the sands below,
While the weird shadows strove with the darkness all 'round.
The stars came silently out up above,
To watch o'er the grave of the beautiful day;
And the moon, a proud creature, too cold for our love,
Came, veiling her face, in a mystical way;
And, roaming the still sky, looked wondering down
On me—and that dreamy, old slumbering town,
And my heart's blood froze, as I sat there alone,
And heard the waves chanting their requiem-like tone,
While the dim ships, like phantoms, went past on the sound.
I sat there, and looked at night's banner unfurled,
With all its rich beauties and wonders so rare;
And I thought that each star was a happier world,
And confess that I longed, like a child, to be there,
Where the holy ones pity us, as they look down
On our Earth, with her many a sin-blinded town,
And hearts that beat heavy and sad and slow,
'Till they break and fail, and unheeded go,
While the world moves on in the same old round.
Then I railed against Christ, as I sat there alone,
For blinding the world with His weak fairy tale;
And I wondered why God, on His thunder-girt throne,
Allowed useful lives and their strivings to fail;-
And I told the great God to His teeth that He lied!
That they who best served Him mankind crucified-
And weary and heart-sore and crazed with despair
I paced the bleak seashore, and muttered a prayer
To the winds!—but it died in the chill evening air.
Away in the midnight, I made me a prayer,
And sent it to God, on His beautiful throne, -
The calm moonlight slept in the deep, silver air;
But the moon glittered coldly and proudly alone,
And the stars, twinkling high in the blue sky, looked down
Like pitying eyes o'er that desolate town,--
When my prayer came back, on its pinions of snow,
That beat the still air into music below,
And my soul was amazed at the peace it had found.
Then I spake to the Lord, as I journeyed along,
"Dear God, Thou hast sent me a blessing in tears;
I only can give Thee the poor, broken song
Of a soul that hath found Thee thro' doubts and thro' fears;
But, break my heart, Lord, and, if balm Thou should'st find,
Give it, in mercy, to erring mankind."
And I heard the low words, as they issued in air,
Borne off on the wings of my hovering prayer,
And the night grew glad with its lingering there.
Published in The Voice of the Negro, June 1904