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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By The Course of Time (1827). III. The Lovers (From Book v)

Robert Pollok (1798–1827)

IT was an eve of Autumn’s holiest mood;

The corn-fields, bathed in Cynthia’s silver light,

Stood ready for the reaper’s gathering hand,

And all the winds slept soundly. Nature seemed,

In silent contemplation, to adore

Its Maker. Now and then, the agèd leaf

Fell from its fellows, rustling to the ground;

And, as it fell, bade man think on his end.

On vale and lake, on wood and mountain high,

With pensive wing outspread, sat heavenly Thought,

Conversing with itself. Vesper looked forth,

From out her western hermitage, and smiled;

And up the east, unclouded, rode the Moon

With all her stars, gazing on earth intense,

As if she saw some wonder walking there.

Such was the night, so lovely, still, serene,

When, by a hermit thorn that on the hill

Had seen a hundred flowery ages pass,

A damsel kneeled to offer up her prayer,

Her prayer nightly offered, nightly heard.

This ancient thorn had been the meeting-place

Of love, before his country’s voice had called

The ardent youth to fields of honour, far

Beyond the wave: and hither now repaired,

Nightly, the maid, by God’s all-seeing eye

Seen only, while she sought this boon alone—

Her lover’s safety and his quick return.

In holy humble attitude she kneeled,

And to her bosom, fair as moonbeam, pressed

One hand, the other lifted up to heaven.

Her eye, upturned, bright as the star of morn,

As violet meek, excessive ardour streamed,

Wafting away her earnest heart to God.

Her voice, scarce uttered, soft as Zephyr sighs

On morning lily’s cheek, though soft and low,

Yet heard in heaven, heard at the mercy-seat.

A tear-drop wandered on her lovely face;

It was a tear of faith and holy fear,

Pure as the drops that hang at dawning-time,

On yonder willows by the stream of life.

On her the Moon looked steadfastly; the Stars,

That circle nightly round the eternal Throne,

Glanced down, well-pleased; and Everlasting Love

Gave gracious audience to her prayer sincere.

O had her lover seen her thus alone,

Thus holy, wrestling thus, and all for him!

Nor did he not; for ofttimes Providence!

With unexpected joy the fervent prayer

Of faith surprised. Returned from long delay,

With glory crowned of righteous actions won,

The sacred thorn, to memory dear, first sought

The youth, and found it at the happy hour,

Just when the damsel kneeled herself to pray.

Wrapt in devotion, pleading with her God,

She saw him not, heard not his foot approach.

All holy images seemed too impure

To emblem her he saw. A seraph kneeled,

Beseeching for his ward, before the Throne,

Seemed fittest, pleased him best. Sweet was the thought!

But sweeter still the kind remembrance came,

That she was flesh and blood, formed for himself,

The plighted partner of his future life.

And as they met, embraced, and sat, embowered

In woody chambers of the starry night,

Spirits of love about them ministered,

And God, approving, blessed the holy joy!