Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/The gleaner's guide

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Poor heart! that twinest with the twisted band
Thoughts bound to sorrow, in a smiling land,
What dost thou here with tears upon thy hand?”

So spoke a reaper, standing ’mid the leaves,
Between the time of suns and golden eves,
To a lost maiden binding up the sheaves.

“In vain to heaven’s face I lift mine eye;
On me no comfort droppeth from on high:
So shall I reap in sorrow till I die.”

So cried the maiden, weeping as she bound;
Cheating glad echo with a thankless sound;
Her hot tears dropping—dropping on the ground.

“Leave the full sheaf: go, glean the scattered ears:
Stain not the precious bread of life with tears!—
Bruise not the blossom, tender as thy years!”

So spoke the reaper, on a balm-breathed morn,
To that wronged maiden, chided and forlorn,
Plucking the virgin bindweed from the corn.

“O Man—so seeming tender of the bud—
See! on the drooping poppy hast thou trod,
Crushing sweet sleep out,—even in tears of blood!”

So cried the maiden, goaded into pain,
On whose dead heart there fell no harvest rain;
A blossom bruised before the time of grain.

“Go forth!—thou comest to the field too late:
On thee, and on thy woe, I bar the gate.—
Away! I will not have thee for my mate.”

So spoke the reaper, as the night fell black,
To that poor gleaner on life’s stony track;
To that crushed soul—that soul upon the rack!

She buried her wan face;—as well she may
To whom no night is darker than her day.—
When lo! a strange light lighted all the way.

Through her closed eyelids did the radiance shine
Which lit the pale flower of a virgin bine,
Twined round the cross-head of a road-way sign.

It was but a rude cross to point the path
To those who stray,—as many a wanderer hath;
Set up in tenderness, and not in wrath.

The beauty of it fixed her to the spot.—
If her poor way she had awhile forgot,
Yet One took care that she should miss it not!

A clear hand, imaged on the carven wood,
Pointed to where the climbing wild-flower stood,—
(Like a white maiden beautiful and good,)

White, save for one seared leaf the night-wind blew
A moment o’er its pure and spotless hue;—
A skeleton leaf, that all the white shone through!

She looked, to see whence glanced the living light,
And marked where high a feeble lamp shone bright;
A guide to those to whom the way was night.

The lamp’s glad rays streamed point-wise to the sky;
Or so it seemed unto her dazzled eye:
But her soul saw it, too,—and could not lie!

So, from a chance-borne vision of delight,
She drew sweet comfort,—till her pain grew slight;
And traced God’s hand, graved in that hand of light.

Eleanora L. Hervey.