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THE EARTHLY HOUSE, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Once - in the ages that have passed away
Last Line: "lord, who destroyest the temple -- is it I?"
Subject(s): Temples; Mosques

ONCE -- in the ages that have passed away,
Since the fair morning of that fairest day,
When earth, in all her innocent beauty, stood
Near her Creator, and He called her good --
He who had weighed the planets in his hand,
And dropped them in the places where they stand,
Builded a little temple white and fair,
And of a workmanship so fine and rare
Even the star that led to Bethlehem
Had not the value of this wondrous gem.

Then, that its strength and beauty might endure,
He placed within, to keep it clean and pure,
A living human soul. To him He said:
"This is the temple which my hands have made
To be thy dwelling-place, or foul or fair,
As thou shalt make it by neglect or care.
Mar or deface this temple's sacred wall,
And swift destruction on the work shall fall:
Preserve it perfect in its purity,
And God Himself shall come and dwell with thee!"

Then he for whom that holy place was built,
Fair as a palace -- ah, what fearful guilt! --
Grew, after tending it a little while,
Careless, then reckless, and then wholly vile.
The evil spirits came and dwelt with him;
The walls decayed, and through the windows dim
He saw not this world's beauty any more,
Heard no good angel knocking at his door;
And all his house, because of sin and crime,
Tumbled and fell in ruin ere its time.

Oh, men and brethren! we who live to-day
In dwellings made by God, though made of clay,
Have these our mortal bodies ever been
Kept fit for Him who made them pure and clean;
Or was that soul in evil sunk so deep,
He spoiled the temple he was set to keep,
And turned to wastefulness and to abuse
The tastes and passions that were meant for use;
So like ourselves, that we, afraid, might cry:
"Lord, who destroyest the temple -- is it I?"

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