Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
III. Faith: Hope: Love: Service
The Self-Exiled
Walter Chalmers Smith (1824–1908)
 
THERE came a soul to the gate of Heaven
          Gliding slow—
A soul that was ransomed and forgiven,
          And white as snow:
And the angels all were silent.        5
 
A mystic light beamed from the face
          Of the radiant maid,
But there also lay on its tender grace
          A mystic shade:
And the angels all were silent.        10
 
As sunlit clouds by a zephyr borne
          Seem not to stir,
So to the golden gates of morn
          They carried her:
And the angels all were silent.        15
 
“Now open the gate, and let her in,
          And fling it wide,
For she has been cleansed from stain of sin,”
          Saint Peter cried:
And the angels all were silent.        20
 
“Though I am cleansed from stain of sin,”
          She answered low,
“I came not hither to enter in,
          Nor may I go:”
And the angels all were silent.        25
 
“I come,” she said, “to the pearly door,
          To see the Throne
Where sits the Lamb on the Sapphire Floor,
          With God alone:”
And the angels all were silent.        30
 
“I come to hear the new song they sing
          To Him that died,
And note where the healing waters spring
          From His piercèd side:”
And the angels all were silent.        35
 
“But I may not enter there,” she said,
          “For I must go
Across the gulf where the guilty dead
          Lie in their woe:”
And the angels all were silent.        40
 
“If I enter heaven I may not pass
          To where they be,
Though the wail of their bitter pain, alas!
          Tormenteth me:”
And the angels all were silent.        45
 
“If I enter heaven I may not speak
          My soul’s desire
For them that are lying distraught and weak
          In flaming fire:”
And the angels all were silent.        50
 
“I had a brother, and also another
          Whom I loved well;
What if, in anguish, they curse each other
          In the depths of hell?”
And the angels all were silent.        55
 
“How could I touch the golden harps,
          When all my praise
Would be so wrought with grief-full warps
          Of their sad days?”
And the angels all were silent.        60
 
“How love the loved who are sorrowing,
          And yet be glad?
How sing the songs ye are fain to sing,
          While I am sad?”
And the angels all were silent.        65
 
“Oh, clear as glass in the golden street
          Of the city fair,
And the tree of life it maketh sweet
          The lightsome air:”
And the angels all were silent.        70
 
“And the white-robed saints with their crowns and palms
          Are good to see,
And oh, so grand are the sounding psalms!
          But not for me:”
And the angels all were silent.        75
 
“I come where there is no night,” she said,
          “To go away,
And help, if I yet may help, the dead
          That have no day.”
And the angels all were silent.        80
 
Saint Peter he turned the keys about,
          And answered grim:
“Can you love the Lord and abide without,
          Afar from Him?”
And the angels all were silent.        85
 
“Can you love the Lord who died for you,
          And leave the place
Where His glory is all disclosed to view,
          And tender grace?”
And the angels all were silent.        90
 
“They go not out who come in here;
          It were not meet:
Nothing they lack, for He is here,
          And bliss complete.”
And the angels all were silent.        95
 
“Should I be nearer Christ,” she said,
          “By pitying less
The sinful living or woful dead
          In their helplessness?”
And the angels all were silent.        100
 
“Should I be liker Christ were I
          To love no more
The loved, who in their anguish lie
          Outside the door?”
And the angels all were silent.        105
 
“Did He not hang on the cursèd tree,
          And bear its shame,
And clasp to His heart, for love of me,
          My guilt and blame?”
And the angels all were silent.        110
 
“Should I be liker, nearer Him,
          Forgetting this,
Singing all day with the Seraphim,
          In selfish bliss?”
And the angels all were silent.        115
 
The Lord Himself stood by the gate,
          And heard her speak
Those tender words compassionate,
          Gentle and meek:
And the angels all were silent.        120
 
Now, pity is the touch of God
          In human hearts,
And from that way He ever trod
          He ne’er departs:
And the angels all were silent.        125
 
And He said, “Now will I go with you,
          Dear child of love,
I am weary of all this glory, too,
          In heaven above:”
And the angels all were silent.        130
 
“We will go seek and save the lost,
          If they will hear,
They who are worst but need me most,
          And all are dear:”
And the angels were not silent.        135
 
 
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