The Search

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The Search  (1843) 
by James Russell Lowell
From Miscellaneous Poems

       I went to seek for Christ,
       And Nature seemed so fair
That first the woods and fields my youth enticed,
   And I was sure to find him there:
      The temple I forsook,
      And to the solitude
Allegiance paid; but winter came and shook
   The crown and purple from my wood;
His snows, like desert sands, with scornful drift,
  Besieged the columned aisle and palace-gate;
My Thebes, cut deep with many a solemn rift,
  But epitaphed her own sepulchered state:
Then I remembered whom I went to seek,
And blessed blunt Winter for his counsel bleak.

      Back to the world I turned,
      For Christ, I said, is King;
So the cramped alley and the hut I spurned,
   As far beneath his sojourning:
      Mid power and wealth I sought,
      But found no trace of him,
And all the costly offerings I had brought
   With sudden rust and mould grew dim:
I found his tomb, indeed, where, by their laws,
  All must on stated days themselves imprison,
Mocking with bread a dead creed's grinning jaws,
  Witless how long the life had thence arisen;
Due sacrifice to this they set apart,
Prizing it more than Christ's own living heart.

      So from my feet the dust
      Of the proud World I shook;
Then came dear Love and shared with me his crust.
   And half my sorrow's burden took.
      After the World's soft bed,
      Its rich and dainty fare,
Like down seemed Love's coarse pillow to my head,
   His cheap food seemed as manna rare;
Fresh-trodden prints of bare and bleeding feet,
  Turned to the heedless city whence I came,
Hard by I saw, and springs of worship sweet
  Gushed from my cleft heart smitten by the same;
Love looked me in the face and spake no words,
But straight I knew those footprints were the Lord's.

      I followed where they led,
      And in a hovel rude,
With naught to fence the weather from his head,
   The King I sought for meekly stood;
      A naked, hungry child
      Clung round his gracious knee,
And a poor hunted slave looked up and smiled
   To bless the smile that set him free:
New miracles I saw his presence do,—
  No more I knew the hovel bare and poor,
The gathered chips into a woodpile grew,
  The broken morsel swelled to goodly store;
I knelt and wept: my Christ no more I seek,
His throne is with the outcast and the weak.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.