Lazarus Speaks

Lazarus, come forth! " The Great Compeller spoke,
Then, earthquake-rent, the grave-mouth heaved and broke,
And vomited forth, and pushed out, as with hands,
A reeling thing wrapped round in rotten bands. . . .

" Why didst thou call me forth? " moaned Lazarus,
" Why hast thou dragged my soul back earthward, thus?
Why didst thou waken me from out death's deep
And sweet oblivion, sweeter far than sleep?
What have I done to merit this? ...
Now I
A second time must die!

Oh, Mighty Lord, how can I shake from me
Those once-touched edges of eternity? —
Now, as I walk the narrow village street,
Mine ears will hear all mouths repeat,
" There goes the Twice-born; him Jehovah led
Twice into life — behold The Living Dead!"
How can I cleanse me from the sepulchre?
Will not about me grave-scents ever stir?
Dare I sit down in Life's thronged banquet-room,
An odor from the tomb?

My mouth, too, thou hast sealed ... I may not tell
The things I've learned of Paradise and Hell,
And unto me the reverend Wise will come
Across the deserts both of sand and foam
To learn of me what men have ever sought —
And I must, silent, sit, and tell them naught.

The children at the fountain will grow dumb
When they behold me come;
The wedding guests will hold their laughter gay
Till I have slunk my way;
Without the door of Joy I'll have to wait
Like a foul leper at the city gate;
The very birds will cease till I have passed, —
And I will be to all an icy blast.

Each word I say and every thought I have
Will reek with reminiscence of the grave;
And I shall live, abhorred, among men —
Dear Master, give me back to Death again! "

Thus Lazarus spake, when, stunned with sun and bloom,
He groped forth, like a blind man, from the tomb. . . .

Then with that love which storms beyond all speech
And floods the soul through every cove and reach,
Christ took one groping hand ... he answered naught. . . .
But down his cheeks the human tears rained hot.
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