The Vision of Echard

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The Vision of Echard
by John Greenleaf Whittier

The Benedictine Echard
Sat by the wayside well,
Where Marsberg sees the bridal
Of the Sarre and the Moselle.

Fair with its sloping vineyards
And tawny chestnut bloom,
The happy vale Ausionus sung
For Holy Treves made room.

On the shrine Helena builded
To keep the Christ coat well,
On minster tower and kloster cross,
The westering sunshine fell.

There, where the rock-hewn circles
O'erlooked the Roman's game,
The veil of sleep fell on him,
And his thought a dream became.

He felt the heart of silence
Throb with a soundless word,
And by the inward ear alone
A spirit's voice he heard.

And the spoken word seemed written
On air and wave and sod,
And the bending walls of sapphire
Blazed with the thought of God:

"What lack I, O my children?
All things are in my hand;
The vast earth and the awful stars
I hold as grains of sand.

"Need I your alms? The silver
And gold are mine alone;
The gifts ye bring before me
Were evermore my own.

"Heed I the noise of viols,
Your pomp of masque and show?
Have I not dawns and sunsets?
Have I not winds that blow?

"Do I smell your gums of incense?
Is my ear with chantings fed?
taste I your wine of worship,
Or eat your holy bread?

"Of rank and name and honors
Am I vain as ye are vain?
What can Eternal Fullness
From your lip-service gain?

"Ye make me not your debtor
Who serve yourselves alone;
Ye boast to me of homage
Whose gain is all your own.

"For you I gave the prophets,
For you the Psalmist's lay:
For you the law's stone tables,
And holy book and day.

"Ye change to weary burdens
The helps that should uplift;
Ye lose in form the spirit,
The Giver in the Gift.

"Who called ye to self-torment,
to fast and penance vain?
Dream ye Eternal Goodness
Has joy in mortal pain?

"For the death in life of Nitria,
For your Chartreuse ever dumb,
What better is the neighbor,
Or happier the home?

"Who counts his brother's welfare
As sacred as his own,
And loves, forgives and pities,
He serveth me alone.

"I note each gracious purpose,
Each kindly word and deed;
Are ye not all my children?
Shall not the Father heed?

"No prayer for light and guidance
Is lost upon mine ear:
The child's cry in the darkness
Shall not the Father hear?

"I loathe your wrangling councils,
I tread upon your creeds;
Who made ye mine avengers,
Or told ye of my needs;

"I bless men and ye curse them,
I love them and ye hate;
Ye bite and tear each other,
I suffer long and wait.

"Ye bow to ghastly symbols,
To cross and scourge and thorn;
Ye seek his Syrian manger
Who in the heart is born.

"For the dead Christ, not the living,
Ye watch his empty grave
Whose life alone within you
Has power to bless and save.

"O blind ones, outward groping,
The idle quest forego;
Who listens to his inward voice
Alone of Him shall know.

"His love all love exceeding
the heart must needs recall,
Its self-surrendering freedom,
Its loss that gaineth all.

"Climb not the holy mountains,
Their eagles know not me;
Seek not the Blessed Islands,
I dwell not in the sea.

"Gone is the mount of Menu,
The triple gods are gone.
And, deaf to all the lama's prayers,
The Buddha slumbers on.

"No more from rocky Horeb
The smitten waters gush;
Fallen is Bethel's ladder,
Quenched is the burning bush.

"The jewels of the urim
And Thummim all are dim;
The fire has left the altar,
The sign the teraphim.

"No more in ark or hill grove
The Holiest abides;
Not in the scroll's dead letter
the eternal secret hides.

"The eye shall fail that searches
For me the hollow sky;
The far is even as the near,
The low is as the high.

"What if the earth is hiding
Her old faiths, long outworn?
what is it to the changeless truth
That yours shall fail in turn?

"What if the o'erturned altar
Lays bare the ancient lie?
What if the dreams and legends
Of the world's childhood die?

"Have ye not still my witness
Within yourselves alway,
My hand that on the keys of life
For bliss or bale I lay?

"Still, in perpetual judgment,
I hold assize within,
With sure reward of holiness,
And dread rebuke of sin.

"A light, a guide, a warning,
A presence ever near,
Through the deep silence of the flesh
I reach the inward ear.

"My Gerizim and Ebal
Are in each human soul,
The still, small voice of blessing,
And Sinai's thunder-roll.

"The stern behest of duty,
The doom-book open thrown,
The heaven ye seek, the hell ye fear,
Are with yourselves alone."


A gold and purple sunset
Flowed down the broad Moselle;
On hills of vine and meadow lands
The peace of twilight fell.

A slow, cool wind of evening
Blew over leaf and bloom;
And faint and far, the Angelus
Rang from Saint Matthew's tomb.

Then up rose Master Echard,
And marvelled: "Can it be
That here, in dream and vision,
The Lord hath talked with me?"

He went his way; behind him
The shrines of saintly dead,
The holy coat and nail of cross,
He left unvisited.

He sought the vale of Eltzbach
His burdened soul to free,
Where the foot-hills of the Eifel
Are glassed in Laachersee.

And, in his Order's kloster,
He sat, in night-long parle,
With tauler of the Friends of God,
And Nicolas of Basle.

And lo! the twain made answer:
"Yea, brother, even thus
The Voice above all voices
Hath spoken unto us.

"The world will have its idols,
And flesh and sense their sign;
But the blinded eyes shall open,
And the gross ear be fine.

"What if the vision tarry?
God's rime is always best;
The true Light shall be witnessed,
The Christ within confessed.

"In mercy or in judgment
He shall turn and overturn,
Till the heart shall be his temple
Where all of him shall learn."