Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Religious Poems
The Minister’s Daughter
 
IN the minister’s morning sermon
  He had told of the primal fall,
And how thenceforth the wrath of God
  Rested on each and all.
 
And how of His will and pleasure,        5
  All souls, save a chosen few,
Were doomed to the quenchless burning,
  And held in the way thereto.
 
Yet never by faith’s unreason
  A saintlier soul was tried,        10
And never the harsh old lesson
  A tenderer heart belied.
 
And, after the painful service
  On that pleasant Sabbath day,
He walked with his little daughter        15
  Through the apple-bloom of May.
 
Sweet in the fresh green meadows
  Sparrow and blackbird sung;
Above him their tinted petals
  The blossoming orchards hung.        20
 
Around on the wonderful glory
  The minister looked and smiled;
“How good is the Lord who gives us
  These gifts from His hand, my child!
 
“Behold in the bloom of apples        25
  And the violets in the sward
A hint of the old, lost beauty
  Of the Garden of the Lord!”
 
Then up spake the little maiden,
  Treading on snow and pink:        30
“O father! these pretty blossoms
  Are very wicked, I think.
 
“Had there been no Garden of Eden
  There never had been a fall;
And if never a tree had blossomed        35
  God would have loved us all.”
 
“Hush, child!” the father answered,
  “By His decree man fell;
His ways are in clouds and darkness,
  But He doeth all things well.        40
 
“And whether by His ordaining
  To us cometh good or ill,
Joy or pain, or light or shadow,
  We must fear and love Him still.”
 
“Oh, I fear Him!” said the daughter,        45
  “And I try to love Him, too;
But I wish He was good and gentle,
  Kind and loving as you.”
 
The minister groaned in spirit
  As the tremulous lips of pain        50
And wide, wet eyes uplifted
  Questioned his own in vain.
 
Bowing his head he pondered
  The words of the little one;
Had he erred in his life-long teaching?        55
  Had he wrong to his Master done?
 
To what grim and dreadful idol
  Had he lent the holiest name?
Did his own heart, loving and human,
  The God of his worship shame?        60
 
And lo! from the bloom and greenness,
  From the tender skies above,
And the face of his little daughter,
  He read a lesson of love.
 
No more as the cloudy terror        65
  Of Sinai’s mount of law,
But as Christ in the Syrian lilies
  The vision of God he saw.
 
And, as when, in the clefts of Horeb,
  Of old was His presence known,        70
The dread Ineffable Glory
  Was Infinite Goodness alone.
 
Thereafter his hearers noted
  In his prayers a tenderer strain,
And never the gospel of hatred        75
  Burned on his lips again.
 
And the scoffing tongue was prayerful,
  And the blinded eyes found sight,
And hearts, as flint aforetime,
  Grew soft in his warmth and light.

  1880.
        80
 
 
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