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.
 
Personal Poems
Within the Gate
 
        
L. M. C.
  
  I have more fully expressed my admiration and regard for Lydia Maria Child in the biographical introduction which I wrote for the volume of Letters, published after her death.

WE sat together, last May-day, and talked
    Of the dear friends who walked
Beside us, sharers of the hopes and fears
    Of five and forty years,
 
Since first we met in Freedom’s hope forlorn,        5
    And heard her battle-horn
Sound through the valleys of the sleeping North,
    Calling her children forth,
 
And youth pressed forward with hope-lighted eyes,
    And age, with forecast wise        10
Of the long strife before the triumph won,
    Girded his armor on.
 
Sadly, as name by name we called the roll,
    We heard the dead-bells toll
For the unanswering many, and we knew        15
    The living were the few.
 
And we, who waited our own call before
    The inevitable door,
Listened and looked, as all have done, to win
    Some token from within.        20
 
No sign we saw, we heard no voices call;
    The impenetrable wall
Cast down its shadow, like an awful doubt,
    On all who sat without.
 
Of many a hint of life beyond the veil,        25
    And many a ghostly tale
Wherewith the ages spanned the gulf between
    The seen and the unseen,
 
Seeking from omen, trance, and dream to gain
    Solace to doubtful pain,        30
And touch, with groping hands, the garment hem
    Of truth sufficing them,
 
We talked; and, turning from the sore unrest
    Of an all-baffling quest,
We thought of holy lives that from us passed        35
    Hopeful unto the last,
 
As if they saw beyond the river of death,
    Like Him of Nazareth,
The many mansions of the Eternal days
    Lift up their gates of praise.        40
 
And, hushed to silence by a reverent awe,
    Methought, O friend, I saw
In thy true life of word, and work, and thought
    The proof of all we sought.
 
Did we not witness in the life of thee        45
    Immortal prophecy?
And feel, when with thee, that thy footsteps trod
    An everlasting road?
 
Not for brief days thy generous sympathies,
    Thy scorn of selfish ease;        50
Not for the poor prize of an earthly goal
    Thy strong uplift of soul.
 
Than thine was never turned a fonder heart
    To nature and to art
In fair-formed Hellas in her golden prime,        55
    Thy Philothea’s time.
 
Yet, loving beauty, thou couldst pass it by,
    And for the poor deny
Thyself, and see thy fresh, sweet flower of fame
    Wither in blight and blame.        60
 
Sharing His love who holds in His embrace
    The lowliest of our race,
Sure the Divine economy must be
    Conservative of thee!
 
For truth must live with truth, self-sacrifice        65
    Seek out its great allies;
Good must find good by gravitation sure,
    And love with love endure.
 
And so, since thou hast passed within the gate
    Whereby awhile I wait,        70
I give blind grief and blinder sense the lie:
    Thou hast not lived to die!

  1881.
 
 
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