Littell's Living Age/Volume 148/Issue 1915/The New Birth

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Littell's Living Age by Herman Merivale
Volume 148, Issue 1915 : The New Birth
Originally published in Spectator.

The New Birth [edit]

God spake in a voice of thunder,
     Of old from Sinai’s hill;
And the mystic words of wonder
     Thrill the believer still;
He sees in the vault above him,
     With the eye of faith alone,
Gemmed round by the souls that love him,
     The great Creator’s throne.

He sees, in the day of danger,
     The column of cloud that led,
From the land of the alien stranger,
     His Israel whom he fed;
And knows, tho’ his footsteps wander
     Astray in a twilight land,
That his home is building yonder,
     By the one unerring hand.

He sees, in the night of peril,
     The pillar of fire that shone
From the halls of pearl and beryl,
     To light God’s children on;
And feels that straight from Heaven,
     When the eye of sense grows dim,
Shall a grander sight be given
     To all who trust in him.

On the page of the mighty ocean
     He reads the mightier still,
Who curbs its restless motion
     By the law of his royal will;
And while in its course diurnal
     It murmurs, or sings, or raves,
He lists to the voice eternal,
     In the language of the waves.

He marks in the plants around him
     The throbs of a life their own,
While the wordless worlds that bound him
     Whisper their undertone.
From the hawk and the hound yet clearer
     He hears the secret fall,
Which nearer to him and nearer
     Brings the great God of all.

In the leaves that blow and perish
     In the space of a single hour,
As the loves that most we cherish
     Die like the frailest flower, —
In the living things whose living
     Withers or e’er they bloom,
He reads of the great thanksgiving,
     Which breathes from the open tomb.

The bright spring leaves returning
     To the stem whence autumn’s fell,
And the heart of summer burning,
     To change at the winter’s spell,
The year that again repasses,
     The grain that again revives,
Are signs on the darkened glasses
     That bar and bound our lives.

I know how the glass must darken
     To my vision more and more,
When the weak ear strains to hearken,
     When the faint eye glazes o’er;
But the glass shall melt and shiver,
     Once kissed by the fighting breath,
And the light beyond the river
     Shine full in the face of Death.


Strong-set in a strong affection,
     We look to the golden prime,
When a mightier resurrection
     Shall burst on the doubts of time;
And the thoughts of all the sages,
     Like the waves of the fretful main,
At the base of the Rock of Ages
     Shall foam and fume in vain.