Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Prayer-Seeker

Along the aisle where prayer was made,

A woman, all in black arrayed,

Close-veiled, between the kneeling host,

With gliding motion of a ghost,

Passed to the desk, and laid thereon

A scroll which bore these words alone,

Pray for me!

Back from the place of worshipping

She glided like a guilty thing:

The rustle of her draperies stirred

By hurrying feet, alone was read,

As out into the dark she sped:

Pray for me!

Back to the night from whence she came,

To unimagined grief or shame!

Across the threshold of that door

None knew the burden that she bore;

Alone she left the written scroll,

The legend of a troubled soul, ---

Pray for me!

Glide on, poor ghost of woe or sin!

Thou leav’st a common need within;

Each bears, like thee, some nameless weight,

Some misery inarticulate,

Some secret sin, some shrouded dread,

Some household sorrow all unsaid.

Pray for us!

Pass on! The type of all thou art,

Sad witness to the common heart!

With face in veil and seal on lip,

In mute and strange companionship,

Like thee we wander to and fro,

Dumbly imploring as we go:

Pray for us!

Ah, who shall pray, since he who pleads

Our want perchance hath greater needs?

Yet they who make their loss the gain

Of others shall not ask in vain,

And Heaven bends low to hear the prayer

Of love from lips of self-despair:

Pray for us!

In vain remorse and fear and hate

Beat with bruised hands against a fate

Whose walls of iron only move

And open to the touch of love.

He only feels his burdens fall

Who, taught by suffering, pities all.

Pray for us!

He prayeth best who leaves unguessed

The mystery of another’s breast.

Why cheeks grow pale, why eyes o’erflow,

Or heads are white, thou need’st not know.

Enough to note by many a sign

That every heart hath needs like thine.

Pray for us!

Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, photo by Manuel Libres Librodo Jr.

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