The Spike or Victoria College Review October 1929
Lost in the desolation of a plain,
Dismal and dreary, mile after mile a blur
Of sodden drabness in descending rain,
Slowly there moved a lonely traveller.
Slowly he moved, as bent beneath the load
Of all his chattels bound into a pack
And borne like some strange hump upon his back,
Along the miry levels of a road.
About him lay in sullen misery
A wilderness of swamp, slough of despond,
Unbroken by an isle of hope; beyond
The fringing warp of rain he could not see.
His vision sank deep inward and within
He saw the stages of his journey pass
In weary leagues across a dim morass
On either side a long road hemming in.
But what was the beginning was and what the end
Of that mysterious road whereon he trod
He knew not, and for answer prayed to God,
But God no answer to his prayer did send;
No answer but the whisper in the air
Of rushing rain in tearful shower shed,
A murmur as of mourning o'er the dead.
Or the sad cadence of divine despair.
Could God lie in forgetfulness asleep
Where never cry did reach him through the cloud?
Was He to unresponsive silence vowed
Or over His own creatures fain to weep?
Oft by the wayside, groping like the blind,
The traveller sought the light that should reveal
The truth of things, whether for woe or weal
Was life on earth by God for Man designed.
Feeling his way and peering through the gloom,
Lured onward ever by faint glimmerings,
He thought at last to find the secret springs
Of earthly life lodged in an earthly womb.
But where the wan flame wavered o'er the reed,
Was naught when thither he the quest pursued;
Thus ever did the phantom light delude
His hope and darkness hide the primal seed.
Then in his agony of doubt a moan
Escaped him, and he cried, "While I have breath,
Grant me to know what means this life and death!"
God to the traveller wore a face of stone.
Forlorn then, pensive, with incurious eye
Glassily focussed on the ways ahead,
He plied his sad undeviating tread,
Like some poor sumpter beast unwitting why.
For heavy on him weighed the dreadful cope
Of cloud, and welling mist walled out the view,
And dimmer o'er the darkling sedges grew
The waning image of his youthful hope.
Gone was all hope now, life was nearly done,
He felt the pain of death within his breast,
For he had given all unto the quest,
Body and soul, and never seen the sun.
With failing step he tottered towards the bank
Of thickening shadow, and with back more bent,
And now at last he knew his life was spent
And by the wayside 'neath the burden sank.
Then on his vision poured a golden flood,
As through a cleft in dungeon masonry
The light of sunset o'er the distant sea,
And in that radiance he understood.
For he beheld, and straight his woes did cease,
The sun cast o'er a mother and her child,
Through melting tears of earth, a halo mild;
And then the traveller from his quest had peace:
And in the fleeting glory of that light
His face shone with a heavenly joy. "All's well!"
He murmured softly, "I can face the night."
And on him as he lay the grave night fell.