At the Stranger's Bidding

In a dream there came to me
As to Caedmon of old,
A Stranger, and " Sing! " said he,
" Sing! Be bold! "

And even as Caedmon did
I answered him, " Nay, my lord,
I have nothing to sing in truth,
No voice, no word. "

" Aye, but you have, " smiled he;
And I answered him, " I am fain,
But what must I sing? " He said,
" Sing the rain! "

. . . . . . . . . .
The rain I sing, — the summer rain
Netting in its crystal skein
Field and forest, lawn and hill,
The wild rain that is never still,
The dervish rain that till it dies
Dances on in ecstasies.
Sweetest servant! Loveliest lover!
See how it doth kiss and cover
All the burning earth with bliss,
Nor any littlest chance doth miss
Her tiniest vassals to rejoice
With offerings suited to their choice, —
The white magnolia's fragrant cup
Unto the very brim fills up
That humming-birds may wash therein:
The little tree-frogs gurgling din
Shows how the rain has brought him joy;
Each grass-blade has a sparkling toy,
The earth worms from the dark come out,
And if they could, be sure they'd shout,
So glad are they until, alas!
The robins pluck them from the grass.
Yet sometimes when too long it stays
The farmers growl in sour amaze,
For then, like any stay-too-long,
It falls to impish pranks and wrong;
The shocks of wheat it makes to sprout,
The gravid soil it washes out,
Undoes hard labour, piles up harder,
Chases the field-mouse from his larder
Into the barn where he's a pest;
Drowns fledgling swallows in the nest,
And lashes all the brooks so sore
That like a thousand bulls they roar.
Yet even at its naughtiest
When ill it's doing with a zest,
I can but love the shining thing,
That with a veil all glimmering
Of magic crystals threaded fair
On silvery strands of fairies' hair,
Shuts out all visitors but these, —
The wilding birds, the scented breeze;
Shuts out the world and shuts in me,
With Leisure sweet and Phantasy!

The rain I sing, the summer rain,
That nets me in its crystal skein!

. . . . . . . . . .
The stranger he nodded once,
" That was not so bad, " said he,
" But now sing another song. "
" What shall it be? "

Smiling, he looked me o'er,
" Well done is only begun;
You have sung the rain, " he said,
" Now sing the sun! "
. . . . . . . . . .
How shall I sing thee, Mighty One? —
As Shamash god of Babylon,
Or Persian Mithra, he whose rays
Upon the Christian Pyx now blaze:
Or shining Vishnu, India's Lord,
Armed with the lotus and the sword;
Or gold Apollo, Pride of Greece,
Whose locks are like a flaming fleece;
Or that more grim, mysterious one,
Osiris, Egypt's burning Son?
These are too human, Mighty One!
Not theirs thy dread, impartial Might,
Begetter and Destroyer bright, —
Thou who wilt aid a dragon-fly
His tender, new-found wings to dry,
And in the self-same tick of time,
With bland indifference sublime,
Wilt smite a hapless man to death! —
Thou who dost quicken April's breath,
And upward draw the trusting corn
In green delight of being re-born,
From out the darksome earth, and then
Each blade wilt perfect or wilt burn,
With imperturbable unconcern
For good or ill as both are done
By thine imperial power, O Sun!

It were amiss to liken thee
To any pagan gods that be
Of love and hate and joy and fear
Compacted, — thou that all the year
Dost deeds of love yet loveless art,
Dost deeds of hate, though far apart
From hatred throbs thine awful heart.

Implacable and magnificent,
All ruthless yet beneficent,
One flung thee into space as sign
Of godhead's attribute most divine
That little man might learn to kneel
Not to the force thou dost reveal,
But to that holier part of thee, —
Inviolable Mystery!
. . . . . . . . . .
All love were the Stranger's eyes,
And in Love's own voice spake he;
" I bade you sing the Sun,
You have sung of ME! "

Whereon, as men say, I awoke;
But I know beyond all shaking,
That wakefulness is a sleep,
And sleep a waking.
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