St. John Baptist

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St. John Baptist  (1870) 
by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

I think he had not heard of the far towns;
Nor of the deeds of men, nor of kings' crowns;
Before the thought of God took hold of him,
As he was sitting dreaming in the calm
Of one first noon, upon the desert's rim,
Beneath the tall fair shadows of the palm,
All overcome with some strange inward balm.
He numbered not the changes of the year,
The days, the nights, and he forgot all fear
Of death: each day he thought there should have been
A shining ladder set for him to climb
Athwart some opening in the heavens, e'en
To God's eternity, and see, sublime —
His face whose shadow passing fills all time.
But he walked through the ancient wilderness.
O, there the prints of feet were numberless
And holy all about him I And quite plain
He saw each spot an angel silver-shod
Had lit upon; where Jacob too had lain
The place seemed fresh, — and, bright and lately trod,
A long track showed where Enoch walked with God.
And often, while the sacred darkness trailed
Along the mountains smitten and unveiled
By rending lightnings, — over all the noise
Of thunders and the earth that quaked and bowed
From its foundations — he could hear the voice
Of great Elias prophesying loud
To Him whose face was covered by a cloud.