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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

In the Dark

By Robert Underwood Johnson (1853–1937)

AT dusk, when Slumber’s gentle wand

Beckons to quiet fields my boy,

And day, whose welcome was so fond,

Is slighted like a rivalled toy,—

When fain to follow, fain to stay,

Toward night’s dim border-line he peers,

We say he fears the fading day:

Is it the inner dark he fears?

His deep eyes, made for wonder, keep

Their gaze upon some land unknown,

The while the crowding questions leap

That show his ignorance my own.

For he would go he knows not where,

And I—I hardly know the more;

Yet what is dark and what is fair

He would to-night with me explore.

Upon the shoals of my poor creed

His plummet falls, but cannot rest;

To sound the soundless is his need,

To find the primal soul, his quest.

In vain these bird-like flutterings,

As when through cages sighs the wind:

My clearest answer only brings

New depths of mystery to his mind,—

Vague thoughts, by crude surmise beset,

And groping doubts that loom and pass

Like April clouds that, shifting, fret

With tides of shade the sun-wooed grass.

O lonely soul within the crowd

Of souls! O language-seeking cry!

How black were noon without a cloud

To vision only of the eye!

Sleep, child! while healing Nature breaks

Her ointment on the wounds of Thought;

Joy, that anew with morning wakes,

Shall bring you sight it ne’er has brought.

Lord, if there be, as wise men spake,

No Death, but only Fear of Death,

And when Thy temple seems to shake

’Tis but the shaking of our breath,—

Whether by day or night we see

Clouds where Thy winds have driven none,

Let unto us as unto Thee

The darkness and the light be one.