Pieces People Ask For/The Story of Sir Arnulph

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[Matt. xxii. 37-39.—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."]

An earnest man, in long-forgotten years,
Relieved the maladies and stanched the tears
Of pining multitudes, who sought his aid
When death their homesteads threatened to invade.
Blest with one only son (a gentle youth,
Trained in the fear of God, and love of truth),
He fondly hoped that Arnulph might aspire
Disease and death to baffle, like his sire.
But the boy, musing gloomily apart,
Avowed at length the impulse of his heart:
"To some calm cloister, father, I would go,
And there serve God." His father answered, "No.
"Thou doest well to wish to serve the Lord,
By thine whole life imperfectly adored;
But choose thy work amid the world, and then
Thou canst serve God, and bless thy fellow-men."
The boy, still yearning to achieve his plan,
Spake: "It were better to serve God than man."
"Pray God for help," the father said, "and he
Will solve the riddle of thy doubt to thee."

So Arnulph to his chamber went, and prayed
That in his doubts the Lord would send him aid.
And, in a vision of the silent night,
A phantom stood before him, clothed in white,—
A form for earth too beautiful and grand,
With crimson roses blooming in each hand.
And Arnulph asked the angel, "Are these flowers
Fresh culled from Eden's amaranthine bowers?"

He answered, "Nay: these offerings are from all
Whom God the doers of his will doth call."
"And can I offer nothing?" sighed the boy.
"May I not also serve the Lord with joy?"
"Surely thou mayest," replied that seraph fair,—
"In my left hand, behold, thy gift I bear."
Then Arnulph said, "I pray thee, tell me why,
In thy left hand the flowers all scentless lie,
But in the right they breathe a gracious smell,
Which long within the haunted sense doth dwell?"
The angel answered with pathetic tone,—
"In my left hand I bear the gifts alone
Of those who worship God the Sire above,
But for his children testify no love;
While these sweet roses, which ne'er grow wan,
Come from the lovers of both God and man."
The vision faded. Arnulph cried, "Alas!
My soul was blind!" And so it came to pass,
That the changed boy a cloister entered not,
But with God's working-men took part and lot.

Gerald Massey.