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This is the tree's judgment, --self-history that cannot be gainsaid. Seven years agone there was a drought,—and the seventh ring
is narrow'd, The fifth from hence was half a deluge,—the fifth is cellular
and broad; Thus, Man, thou art a result of the growth of many yesterdays, That stamp thy secret soul with growth of weal or woe; Thou art an almanac of self, the living record of thy deeds; Spirit has its scars as well as body, sore and aching in their
Here is a knot,-it was a crime: there is a canker,-selfishness; Lo, here the heart-wood rotten; lo, there, perchance, the sap
wood sound; Nature teacheth not in vain; thy works are in thee, of thee; Some present evil bent hath grown of older errors. And what if thou be walking now uprightly? Salye not thy
wounds with poison, As if a petty goodness of to-day hath blotted out the sin of yes
terday. It is well, thou hast life and light; and the Hewer showeth
mercy, Dressing the root, pruning the branch, and looking for thy
tardy fruits; But even here, as thou standest, cheerful belike and careless, The stains of ancient evil are upon thee, the record of thy
wrong is in thee: For, a curse of many yesterdays is thine, many yesterdays
of sin, That, haply little heeded now, shall blast thy many morrows. Shall then a man reck nothing, but hurl mad defiance at his
Judge, Knowing that less than an omnipotent cannot make the has
been, not been? He ought, so Satan spake; he must, so Atheism urgeth; He may, it was the libertine's thought; he doth,—the bad world
But thou of humbler heart, thou student wiser for simplicity, While Nature warmeth thee betimes, heed the loving counsel
of Religion. True, this change is good, and penitence most precious; But trust not thou thy change; nor rest upon repentance; For we all are corrupted at the core, smooth as our surface
seemeth; What health can bloom in a beautiful skin, when rottenness
hath fed upon the bones ? And guilt is parcel of us all ; not thou, sweet nursling of affection, Art spotless, though so passing fair, nor thou, wild patriarch of
virtue; Behold then the better tree of Life, free unto us all for grafting, Cut thee from the hollow root of self, to be budded on a richer vine, Be desperate, O man, as of evil so of good ; tear that tunic from
thee; The past can never be retriev'd, be the present what it may. Vain is the penance and the scourge, vain the fast and vigil ; The fencer's cautious skill to-day, can this erase his scars? It is man's to famish as a faquir, it is man's to die a devotee; Light is the torture and the toil, balanced with the wages of
Eternity : But, it is God's to yearn in love on the humblest, the poorest,
and the worst; For he has giv’n freely, as a King, asking only thanks for mercy. Look upon this noble-hearted Substitute; seeing thy woes, he
pitied thee; Bow'd beneath the mountain of thy sin and perish’d, -but for
God-head. There stood the Atlas in his power, and Prometheus in his love
is there, Emptying, on wretched man, the blessings earn'd from heav'n. Put them not away-hide them in thy breast, poor and penitent
receiver; Be gratitude thy counsellor to good, and wholesome fear unto
Remember the pruning knife is keen, cutting cankers even from
the vine; Remember, twelve were chosen, and one among them liveth in
perdition. Yea,--for standing unatoned, the soul is a bison on the prairie, Hunted by those trooping wolves, the many sinful yesterdays: And it speedeth a terrified Deucalion, flinging back the pebble
in his flight The pebble that must add one more to those pursuing ghosts. Oman! there is a storm behind, should drive in thy bark to haven: The foe, the foe, is on thy track, patient, certain and avenging; Day by day, solemnly and silently followeth the fearful past,His step is lame but sure ; for he catcheth the present in eternity: And how to escape that foe, the present-past in future ? How to avert that fate, living consequence of causes unexistent? Boldly we must overleap his birth, and date above his memories, Grafted on the living Tree that was before a yesterday ; No refuge of a younger birth than one that saw creation, Can hide the child of time from still condemning yesterday. There is the Sanctuary-city, mocking at the wrath of thine
Avenger, Close at hand, with its wicket on the latch; haste for thy life,
poor hunted one! The gladiator, Guilt, fighteth as of old, armed with net and
dagger; Snaring in the mesh of yesterdays, stabbing with the poniard
of to-day; Fly, thy sword is broken at the hilt; fly, thy shield is shiverd; Leap the barriers and baffle him; the arena of the past is his. The bounds of guilt are the cycles of time; thou must be safe
within Eternity; The arms of God alone shall rescue thee from yesterday.
A POET'S PARTING THOUGHT.*-MOTHERWELL.
When I beneath the cold red earth am sleeping,
Life's fever o'er,
That I'm no more?
Of heretofore ?
When the great winds through leafless forests rushing,
Sad music make;
Like full hearts break,-
When the bright sun upon that spot is shining,
With purest ray,
Burst through that clay,–
Lost hopes all day?
When no star twinkles with its eye of glory,
On that low mound,
Its loneness crown'd, -
Pacing it round ?-
To ask such meed,
* These lines of Motherwell, --so touching in their simple pathos, and so unselfish in the calm resignation of their close,
-were given to a friend by the author, a day or two before his decease.
A weakness and a wickedness to borrow,
From hearts that bleed,
Shall never need.
Lay me then gently in my narrow dwelling,
Thou gentle heart; And though thy bosom should with grief be swelling,
Let no tear start: It were in vain, -for time hath long been knelling ;
Sad one, depart!