Littell's Living Age/Volume 144/Issue 1867/First Time at Church

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Originally published in Argosy

Just three years old! and without a thought just of all the rites and creeds;
Just three years old! and unconscious quite of the souls unbounded needs;
Content it should draw what life it may from the food on which it feeds.

Just three years old! and brought to church to sit in the narrow pew,
And wonder at all the mysteries that rise before her view —
The noiseless movement down the aisle; the crowd, and the faces new;

The organ that peals out magic strains, though hidden from the sight;
The arches, and windows of pictured glass that tow'r to such a height;
The eagle that bears the Bible up; the choir in their robes of white.

To wonder and watch with childish awe that is more than mere surprise,
That seems to catch in the tones of earth some echo of the skies,
And reflects itself in the tender face, in the solemn, wide grey eyes,

Out of whose cloudless, dewy depths glimmers the earliest ray
Of the awak'ning love, whose dawn heralds a fuller day,
When, though the shadows may darker lie, the mists will melt away;

When the types shall find their antitypes, and the mysteries be made clear,
Though the deeper mysteries beyond will gather yet more near,
Awaiting a new and brighter dawn e'er they shall disappear.

Just three years old! and brought to church, though she can take no share
In the praises rising to Gods high throne, in confession or earnest pray'r;
Brought but to learn the reverence due to the awful presence there.

Just three years old! with folded hands, she kneels when the others kneel;
And surely the blessing which falls on them may also gently steal
Over the innocent baby head, bent down in mute appeal.