The Departure Of St. Patrick From Scotland
Twice to your son already has the hand of God been shewn,
Restoring him from alien bonds to be once more your own,
And now it is the self--same hand, dear kinsmen, that to--day
Shall take me for the third time from all I love away.
While I look into your eyes, while I hold your hands in mine,
What force could tear me from you, if it were not all divine?
Has my love ever faltered? Have I ever doubted yours?
And think you I could yield me now to any earthly lures?
I go not to some balmier land in pleasant ease to rest,--
I go not to content the pride that swells a mortal breast,--
I go about a work my God has chosen me to do;
Surely the soul which is his child must be his servant too.
I seek not the great city where our sacred father dwells,--
I seek not the blest eremites within their sandy cells,--
I seek not our Redeemer's grave in distant Palestine,--
Another, shorter pilgrimage, a lonelier path is mine.
When sunset clears and opens out the breadth of western sky,
To those who in yon mountain isles protect their flocks on high
Loom the dark outlines of a land, whose nature and whose name
Some have by harsh experience learnt, and all by evil fame.
Oh, they are wild and wanton men, such as the best will be,
Who know no other gifts of God but to be bold and free,
Who never saw how states are bound in golden bonds of law,
Who never knew how strongest hearts are bent by holy awe.
When first into their pirate hands I fell, a very boy,
Skirting the shore from rock to rock in unsuspecting joy,
I had been taught to pray, and thus those slavish days were few,
A wondrous hazard brought me back to liberty and you.
But when again they met me on the open ocean field,
And might of numbers prest me round and forced my arm to yield,
I had become a man like them, a selfish man of pride,
I could have curst the will of God for shame I had not died.
And still this torment haunted me three weary years, until
That summer night,--among the sheep,--upon the seaward hill,
When God of his miracu'lous grace, of his own saving thought,
Came down upon my lonely heart and rested unbesought!
That night of light! I cared not that the day--star glimmered soon,
For in my new--begotten soul it was already noon;
I knew before what Christ had done, but never felt till then
A shadow of the love for him that he had felt for men!
Strong faith was in me,--on the shore there lay a stranded boat,
I hasted down, I thrust it out, I felt it rock afloat;
With nervous arm and sturdy oar I sped my wate'ry way,
The wind and tide were trusty guides,--one God had I and they.
As one from out the dead I stood among you free and whole,
My body Christ could well redeem, when he had saved my soul;
And perfect peace embraced the life that had been only pain,
For Love was shed upon my head from every thing, like rain.
Then on so sweetly flowed the time, I almost thought to sail
Eve'n to the shores of Paradise in that unwave'ring gale,
When something rose and nightly stood between me and my rest,
Most like some one, beside myself, reflecting in my breast.
I cannot put it into words, I only know it came,
A sense of self--abasing weight, intolerable shame,
``That I should be so vile that not one tittle could be paid
Of that enormous debt which Christ upon my soul had laid!''
This yielded to another mood, strange objects gathered near,
Phantoms that entered not by eye, and voices not by ear,
The land of my injurious thrall a gracious aspect wore,
I yearned the most toward the forms I hated most before.
I seemed again upon that hill, as on that blissful night,
Encompast with celestial air and deep retiring light,
But sight and thought were fettered down, where glimme'ring lay below
A plain of gasping, struggling, men in every shape of woe.
Faint solemn whispers gathered round, ``Christ suffered to redeem,
Not you alone, but such as these, from this their savage dream,--
Lo, here are souls enough for you to bring to him, and say,
These are the earnest of the debt I am too poor to pay.''
A cloud of children freshly born, innumerable bands,
Past by me with imploring eyes and little lifted hands,
And all the Nature, I believed so blank and waste and dumb,
Became instinct with life and love, and echoed clearly ``Come!''
``Amen!'' said I; with eager steps a rude descent I tried,
And all the glory followed me like an on--coming tide,
With trails of light about my feet I crost the darkling wild,
And, as I toucht each suffe'rer's hand, he rose and gently smiled.
Thus night on night the vision came, and left me not alone,
Until I swore that in that land should Christ be preacht and known,
And then at once strange coolness past on my long fevered brow,
As from the flutter of light wings: I feel, I feel it now!
And from that moment unto this, this last and proving one,
I have been calm and light at heart as if the deed were done;
I never thought how hard it was our earthly loves to lay
Upon the altar of the Lord, and watch them melt away!
Speak, friends! speak what you will,--but change those asking looks forlorn,
--Sustain me with reproachful words,--uphold me with your scorn:
--I know God's heart is in me, but my human bosom fears
Those drops that pierce it as they fall, those full and silent tears.
These comrades of my earliest youth have pledged their pious care
To bear me to the fronting coast, and gently leave me there:
It may be I shall fall at once, with little toil or need,--
Heaven often takes the simple will for the most perfect deed:
Or, it may be that from that hour beneath my hand may spring
A line of glories unachieved by hero, sage, or king,--
That Christ may glorify himself in this ignoble name,
And shadow forth my endless life in my enduring fame.
--All as He wills! Now bless me, mother,--your cheek is almost dry:--
Farewell, kind brothers!--only pray ye may be blest as I;
Smile on me, sisters,--when death comes near each of you, still smile,
And we shall meet again somewhere, within a little while!
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