Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MY FRIEND, by PHOEBE CARY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

MY FRIEND, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: O my friend, o my dearly beloved
Last Line: And he cannot for love.
Subject(s): Friendship

O MY friend, O my dearly beloved!
Do you feel, do you know,
How the times and the seasons are going;
Are they weary and slow?
Does it seem to you long, in the heavens,
My true, tender mate,
Since here we were living together,
Where dying I wait?
'T is three years, as we count by the spring-times,
By the birth of the flowers,
What are years, aye! eternities even,
To love such as ours?
Side by side are we still, though a shadow
Between us doth fall;
We are parted, and yet are not parted,
Not wholly, and all.
For still you are round and about me,
Almost in my reach,
Though I miss the old pleasant communion
Of smile and of speech.
And I long to hear what you are seeing,
And what you have done,
Since the earth faded out from your vision,
And the heavens begun;
Since you dropped off the darkening fillet
Of clay from your sight,
And opened your eyes upon glory
Ineffably bright!
Though little my life has accomplished,
My poor hands have wrought;
I have lived what has seemed to be ages
In feeling and thought,
Since the time when our path grew so narrow,
So near the unknown,
That I turned back from following after,
And you went on alone.
For we speak of you cheerfully, always,
As journeying on;
Not as one who is dead do we name you;
We say, you are gone.
For how could we speak of you sadly,
We, who watched while the grace
Of eternity's wonderful beauty
Grew over your face!

Do we call the star lost that is hidden
In the great light of morn?
Or fashion a shroud for the young child
In the day it is born?
Yet behold this were wise to their folly,
Who mourn, sore distressed,
When a soul, that is summoned, believing,
Enters into its rest!
And for you, never any more sweetly
Went to rest, true and deep,
Since the first of our Lord's blessed martyrs,
Having prayed, fell asleep.

What to you was the change, the transition,
When looking before,
You felt that the places which knew you
Should know you no more?
Did the soul rise exultant, ecstatic?
Did it cry, all is well?
What it was to the left and the loving
We only can tell.
'T was as if one took from us sweet roses
And we caught their last breath;
'T was like anything beautiful passing, --
It was not like death!
Like the flight of a bird, when still rising,
And singing aloud,
He goes towards the summer-time, over
The top of the cloud.
Now seen and now lost in the distance,
Borne up and along,
From the sight of the eyes that are watching
On a trail of sweet song.
As sometimes, in the midst of the blackness,
A great shining spark
Flames up from the wick of a candle,
Blown out in the dark;
So while we were watching and waiting,
'Twixt hoping and doubt,
The light of the soul flashed upon us,
When we thought it gone out.
And we scarce could believe it forever
Withdrawn from our sight,
When the cold lifeless ashes before us
Fell silent and white!
Ah! the strength of your love was so wondrous,
So great was its sway,
It forced back the spirit half-parted
Away from the clay;
In its dread of the great separation,
For not then did we know,
Love can never be left, O beloved,
And never can go!

As when from some beautiful casement
Illumined at night,
While we steadfastly gaze on its brightness,
A hand takes the light;
And our eyes still transfixed by the splendor
Look earnestly on,
At the place where we lately beheld it,
Even when it has gone:
So we looked in your soul's darkening windows,
Those luminous eyes,
Till the light taken from them fell on us
From out of the skies!
Though you wore something earthly about you
That once we called you,
A robe all transparent, and brightened
By the soul shining through:
Yet when you had dropped it in going,
'T was but yours for a day,
Safe back in the bosom of nature
We laid it away.
Strewing over it odorous blossoms
Their perfume to shed,
But you never were buried beneath them,
And never were dead!
What we brought there and left for the darkness
Forever to hide,
Was but precious because you had worn it,
And put it aside.
As a garment might be, you had fashioned
In exquisite taste;
A book which your touch had made sacred,
A flower you had graced.
For all that was yours we hold precious,
We keep for your sake
Every relic our saint on her journey
Has not needed to take.

Who that knew what your spirit, though fettered,
Aspired to, adored,
When as far as the body would loose it
It mounted and soared;
What soul in the world that had loved you,
Or known you aright,
Would look for you down in the darkness,
Not up in the light?
Why, the seed in the ground that we planted,
And left there to die,
Being quickened, breaks out of its prison,
And grows towards the sky.
The small fire that but slowly was kindled,
And feebly begun,
Gaining strength as it burns, flashes upward,
And mounts to the sun.
And could such a soul, free for ascending,
Could that luminous spark,
Blown to flame by the breath of Jehovah,
Go out in the dark?
Doth the bird stay behind when the window
Wide open is set?
Or, freed from the snare of the fowler,
Hasten back to his net?
And you pined in the flesh, being burdened
By its great weight of ills,
As a slave, who has tasted wild freedom,
Still pines for the hills.
And therefore it is that I seek you
In full, open day,
Where the universe stretches the farthest
From darkness away.
And think of you always as rising
And spurning the gloom;
All the width of infinity keeping
'Twixt yourself and the tomb!

Sometimes in white raiment I see you,
Treading higher and higher,
On the great sea of glass, ever shining,
And mingled with fire.
With the crown and the harp of the victor,
Exultant you stand;
And the melody drops, as if jewels
Dropped off from your hand.
You walk in that beautiful city,
Adorned as a bride,
Whose twelve gates of pearl are forever
Opened freely and wide.
Whose walls upon jasper foundations
Shall firmly endure;
Set with topaz, and beryl, and sapphire,
And amethyst pure.
You are where there is not any dying,
Any pain, any cries;
And God's hand has wiped softly forever,
The tears from your eyes:
For if spirits because of much loving
Come nearest the throne,
You must be with the saints and the children
Our Lord calls his own!

Sometimes you are led in green pastures,
The sweetest and best;
Sometimes as a lamb in the bosom
Of Jesus you rest.
Where you linger the spiciest odors
Of paradise blow,
And under your feet drifts of blossoms
Lie soft as the snow.
If you follow the life-giving river,
Or rest on its bank,
You are set round by troops of white lilies,
In rank after rank.
And the loveliest things, and the fairest,
That near you are seen
Seem as beautiful handmaids, who wait on
The step of a queen.
For always, wherever I see you,
Below or above,
I think all the good which surrounds you
Is born of your love.
And the best place is that where I find you,
The best thing what you do;
For you seem to have fashioned the heaven
That was fashioned for you!

But as from his essence and nature
Our God, ever blest,
Cannot do anything for his children
But that which is best;
And till He hath gathered them to Him,
In the heavens above,
Cannot joy over them as one singing,
Nor rest in his love;
So you, who have drawn from his goodness
Your portion of good,
Must help where your hand can be helpful,
Cannot rest if you would;
For you could not be happy in heaven,
By glory shut in,
While any soul whom you might comfort
Should suffer and sin.
So unto the heirs of salvation
Have you freely appeared;
And the earth by your sweet ministration
Is brightened and cheered.

I am sure you are near to the dying!
For often we mark
A smile on their faces, whose brightness
Lights the soul through the dark;
Sure, that you have for man in his direst
Necessity cared;
Preparing him then for whatever
The Lord hath prepared.
So, whenever you tenderly loosen
A hand from our grasp,
We feel, you can hold it and keep it
More safe in your clasp;
And that he, whose dear smile for a season
Our love must resign,
Gains the infinite comfort and sweetness
Of love such as thine.

Yea, lost mortal, immortal forever!
And saved evermore!
You revisit the world and the people,
That saw you of yore.
To the sorrowful house, to the death-room,
The prison and tomb,
You come, as on wings of the morning,
To scatter the gloom.
Wherever in desolate places
Earth's misery abides;
Wherever in dark habitations
Her cruelty hides;
If there the good seek for the wretched,
And lessen their woes,
Surely they are led on by the angels,
And you are of those.

In the holds of oppression, where captives
Sit silent and weep,
Your face as the face of a seraph
Has shined in their sleep:
And your white hand away from the dungeon
His free step has led,
When the slave slipped his feet from the fetters,
And the man rose instead;
Free, at least in his dreams and his visions,
That one to behold,
Who walked through the billows of fire
With the faithful of old.
And what are the walls of the prison,
The rack and the rod,
To him, who in thought and in spirit,
Bows only to God?
If his doors are swung back by the angels
That visit his sleep --
If his singing ascend at the midnight,
Triumphant and deep;
He is freer than they who have bound him,
For his spirit may rise
And as far as infinity reaches
May travel the skies!

And who knows but the wide world of slumber
Is real as it seems?
God giveth them sleep, his beloved,
And in sleep giveth dreams!
And happy are we if such visions
Our souls can receive;
If we sleep at the gateway of heaven,
And wake and believe.
If angels for us on that ladder
Ascend and descend,
Whose top reaches into the heavens,
With God at the end!
If our souls can raise up for a Bethel
E'en the great stone that lies
At the mouth of the sepulchre, hiding
Our dead from our eyes!
But alas! if our sight be withholden,
If faithless, bereft,
We stoop down, looking in at the graveclothes
The Risen hath left;
And see not the face of the angel
All dazzling and white,
Who points us away from the darkness,
And up to the light!
And alas! when our Helper is passing,
If then we delay,
To cast off the hindering garments
And follow his way!

Yet how blindly humanity gropeth,
While clad in this veil;
When we seek for the truths that are nearest,
How often we fail.
How little we learn of each other,
How little we teach;
How poorly the wisest interpret
The look and the speech!
Only that which in nearest communion
We give and receive,
That which spirit to spirit imparteth,
Can we know and believe.
Thus I know that you live, live forever,
Free from death, free from harms;
For in dreams of the night, and at noonday
Have you been in my arms!
And I know that, when I shall be like you,
We shall meet face to face;
That all souls, who are joined by affection,
Are joined by God's grace;
And that, O my dearly beloved,
But the Father above,
Who made us and joined us can part us;
And He cannot for love.

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