Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MANY MANSIONS, by PHOEBE CARY



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MANY MANSIONS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Her silver lamp half-filled with oil
Last Line: I wake, I shall be satisfied.
Subject(s): Religion; Theology


HER silver lamp half-filled with oil,
Night came, to still the day's turmoil,
And bring a respite from its toil.

Gliding about with noiseless tread,
Her white sheets on the ground she spread,
That wearied men might go to bed.

No watch was there for me to keep,
Yet could I neither rest nor sleep,
A recent loss had struck so deep.

I felt as if Omnipotence
Had given us no full recompense
For all the ills of time and sense.

So I went, wandering silently,
Where a great river sought the sea;
And fashioned out the life to be.

It was not drawn from book or creed,
And yet, in very truth and deed,
It answered to my greatest need.

And satisfied myself, I thought,
A heaven so good and perfect ought
To give to each what all have sought.

Near where I slowly chanced to stray,
A youth, and old man, worn and gray,
Down through the silence took their way;

And the night brought within my reach,
As each made answer unto each,
Some portion of their earnest speech.

The patriarch said: "Of all we know,
Or all that we can dream below,
Of that far land to which we go,

"This one assurance hath expressed,
To me, its blessedness the best --
'He giveth his beloved rest.'"

And the youth answered: "If it be
A place of inactivity,
It cannot be a heaven to me.

"Surely its joy must be to lack
These hindrances that keep us back
From rising on a shining track;

"Where each shall find his own true height,
Though in our place, and in our light,
We differ as the stars of night."

I listened, till they ceased to speak;
And my heart answered, faint and weak,
Their heaven is not the heaven I seek!

Yet their discourse awoke again
Some hidden memories that had lain
Long undisturbed within my brain.

For oft, when bowed earth's care beneath,
I had asked others of their faith
In the life following after death;

And what that better world could be,
Where, from mortality set free,
We put on immortality.

And each in his reply had shown
That he had shaped and made his own
By the best things which he had known:

Or fashioned it to heal the woe
Of some great sorrow, which below
It was his hapless lot to know.

A mother once had said to me,
Over her dead: "My heaven will be
An undivided family."

One sick with mortal doubts and fears,
With looking blindly through her tears,
The way that she had looked for years,

Told me: "That world could have no pain,
Since there we should not wait in vain
For feet that will not come again."

A lover dreamed that heaven would be
Life's hour of perfect ecstasy,
Drawn out into eternity!

Men bending to their hopeless doom,
Toiling as in a living tomb,
Down shafts of everlasting gloom,

Out of the dark had answered me:
"Where there is light for us to see
Each other's faces, heaven must be."

An aged man, who bowed his head
With reverence o'er the page, and read
The words that ancient prophets said,

Talked of a glory never dim,
Of the veiled face of cherubim,
And harp, and everlasting hymn; --

Saw golden streets and glittering towers --
Saw peaceful valleys, white with flowers,
Kept never-ending Sabbath hours.

One, who the cruel sea had crossed,
And seen, through billows madly tossed,
Great shipwrecks, where brave souls were lost.

Thus of the final voyage spake:
"Coming to heaven must be to make
Safe port, and no more journeys take."

And now their words of various kind
Come back to my bewildered mind,
And my faith staggered, faint and blind,

One moment; then this truth seemed plain,
These have not trusted God in vain;
To ask of Him must be to gain.

Every imaginable good,
We, erring, sinful, mortal, would
Give me beloved, if we could;

And shall not He, whose care enfolds
Our life, and all our way controls,
Yet satisfy our longing souls?

Since mortal step hath never been,
And mortal eye hath never seen,
Past death's impenetrable screen,

Who shall dare limit Him above,
Or tell the ways in which He'll prove
Unto his children all his love?

Then joy through all my being spread,
And, comforted myself, I said:
O weary world, be comforted!

Souls, in your quest of bliss grown weak --
Souls, whose great woe no words can speak --
Not always shall ye vainly seek!

Men whose whole lives have been a night,
Shall come from darkness to the light;
Wanderers shall hail the land in sight.

Old saints, and martyrs of the Lamb,
Shall rise to sing their triumph psalm,
And wear the crown, and bear the palm.

And the pale mourner, with bowed head,
Who, for the living lost, or dead,
Here weeps, shall there be gently led,

To feel, in that celestial place,
The tears wiped softly from her face,
And know love's comforting embrace.

So shall we all, who groan in this,
Find, in that new life's perfectness,
Our own peculiar heaven of bliss --

More glorious than our faith believed,
Brighter than dreams our hope has weaved,
Better than all our hearts conceived.

Therefore will I wait patiently,
Trusting, where all God's mansions be
There hath been one prepared for me;

And go down calmly to death's tide,
Knowing, when on the other side
I wake, I shall be satisfied.





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