Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CRY OF THE HUMAN, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CRY OF THE HUMAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There is no god,' the foolish saith
Last Line: Be pitiful, o god.
Variant Title(s): Convinced By Sorrow
Subject(s): Religion; Theology


"THERE is no God," the foolish saith,
But none, "There is no sorrows";
And nature oft the cry of faith
In bitter need will borrow:
Eyes which the preacher could not school,
By wayside graves are raised;
And lips say, "God be pitiful,"
Who ne'er said, "God be praised."
Be pitiful, O God!

The tempest stretches from the steep
The shadow of its coming;
The beasts grow tame, and near us creep,
As help were in the human:
Yet while the cloud-wheels roll and grind
We spirits tremble under! --
The hills have echoes; but we find
No answer for the thunder.
Be pitiful, O God!

The battle hurtles on the plains --
Earth feels new scythes upon her:
We reap our brothers for the wains,
And call the harvest, honor, --
Draw face to face, front line to line,
One image all inherit, --
Then kill, curse on, by that same sign,
Clay, clay, -- and spirit, spirit.
Be pitiful, O God!

The plague runs festering through the town,
And nearer a bell is tolling:
And corpses jostled 'neath the moon,
Nod to the dead-cart's rolling.
The young child calleth for the cup --
The strong man brings it weeping;
The mother from her babe looks up,
And shrieks away its sleeping.
Be pitiful, O God!

The plague of gold strides far and near,
And deep and strong it enters:
This purple chimar which we wear,
Makes madder than the centaur's.
Our thoughts grow blank, our words grow strange;
We cheer the pale gold-diggers --
Each soul is worth so much on 'Change,
And marked, like sheep, with figures.
Be pitiful, O God!

The curse of gold upon the land,
The lack of bread enforces --
The rail-cars snort from strand to strand,
Like more of Death's White Horses:
The rich preach "rights" and future days,
And hear no angel scoffing:
The poor die mutes -- with starving gaze
On corn-ships in the offing.
Be pitiful, O God!

We meet together at the feast --
To private mirth besake us --
We stare down in the winecup lest
Some vacant chair should shake us!
We name delight, and pledge it round --
"It shall be ours to-morrow!"
God's seraphs, do your voices sound
As sad in naming sorrow?
Be pitiful, O God!

We sit together, with the skies,
The steadfast skies, above us:
We look into each other's eyes,
"And how long will you love us?"
The eyes grow dim with prophecy,
The voice is low and breathless --
"Till death us part!" -- O words, to be
Our best for love the deathless!
Be pitiful, dear God!

We tremble by the harmless bed
Of one loved and departed --
Our tears drop on the lids that said
Last night, "Be stronger hearted!"
O God, -- to clasp those fingers close,
And yet to feel so lonely! --
To see a light upon such brows,
Which is the daylight only!
Be pitiful, O God!

The happy children come to us,
And look up in our faces:
They ask us -- Was it thus, and thus,
When we were in their places?
We cannot speak: -- we see anew
The hills we used to live in;
And feel our mother's smile press through
The kisses she is giving.
Be pitiful, O God!

We pray together at the kirk,
For mercy, mercy, solely --
Hands weary with the evil work,
We lift them to the Holy!
The corpse is calm below our knee --
Its spirit bright before thee --
Between them, worse than either, we --
Without the rest of glory!
Be pitiful, O God!

We leave the communing of men,
The murmur of the passions;
And live alone, to live again
With endless generations.
Are we so brave? -- The sea and sky
In silence lift their mirrors;
And, glassed therein, our spirits high
Recoil from their own terrors.
Be pitifull, O God!

We sit on hills our childhood wist,
Woods, hamlets, streams, beholding:
The sun strikes through the farthest mist,
The city's spire to golden.
The city's golden spire it was,
When hope and health were strong;
But now it is the churchyard glass,
We look upon the longest.
Be pitiful, O God!

And soon all vision waxeth dull --
Men whisper, "He is dying":
We cry no more, "Be pitiful!" --
We have no strength for crying:
No strength, no need! Then, Soul of mine,
Look up and triumph rather --
Lo! in the depth of God's Divine,
The Son adjures the Father --
Be pitiful, O God.




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