A DRAMATIC LYRIC
Come, give me back my life again, you heavy-handed Death!
Uncrook your fingers from my throat, and let me draw my breath.
You do me wrong to take me now-too soon for me to die-
Ah, loose me from this clutching pain, and hear the reason why.
I know I’ve had my forty years, and wasted every one;
And yet, I tell you honestly, my life is just begun;
I’ve walked the world like one asleep, a dreamer in a trance;
But now you’ve gripped me wide awake-I want another chance.
My dreams were always beautiful, my thoughts were high and fine;
No life was ever lived on earth to match those dreams of mine.
And would you wreck them unfulfilled? What folly, nay, what crime!
You rob the world, you waste a soul; give me a little time.
You’ll hear me? Yes, I’m sure you will, my hope is not in vain:
I feel the even pulse of peace, the sweet relief from pain;
The black fog rolls away from me; I’m free once more to plan:
Another chance is all I need to prove myself a man!
The world is full of warfare ‘twixt the evil and the good;
I watched the battle from afar as one who understood
The shouting and confusion, the bloody, blundering fight-
How few there are that see it clear, how few that wage it right!
The captains flushed with foolish pride, the soldiers pale with fear,
The faltering flags, the feeble fire from ranks that swerve and veer,
The wild mistakes, the dismal doubts, the coward hearts that flee-
The good cause needs a nobler knight to win the victory.
A man whose soul is pure and strong, whose sword is bright and keen,
Who knows the splendour of the fight and what its issues mean;
Who never takes one step aside, nor halts, though hope be dim,
But cleaves a pathway thro’ the strife, and bids men follow him.
No blot upon his stainless shield, no weakness in his arm;
No sign of trembling in his face to break his valour’s charm:
A man like this could stay the flight and lead the wavering line;
Ah, give me but a year of life-I’ll make that glory mine!
Religion? Yes, I know it well; I’ve heard its prayers and creeds,
And seen men put them all to shame with poor, half-hearted deeds.
They follow Christ, but far away; they wander and they doubt.
I’ll serve him in a better way, and live his precepts out.
You see, I waited just for this; I could not be content
To own a feeble, faltering faith with human weakness blent.
Too many runners in the race move slowly, stumble, fall;
But I will run so straight and swift I shall outstrip them all.
Oh, think what it will mean to men, amid their foolish strife,
To see the clear, unshadowed light of one true Christian life,
Without a touch of selfishness, without a taint of sin,-
With one short month of such a life a new world would begin!
And love!-I often dream of that-the treasure of the earth;
How little they who use the coin have realised its worth!
‘Twill pay all debts, enrich all hearts, and make all joys secure.
But love, to do its perfect work, must be sincere and pure.
My heart is full of virgin gold. I’ll pour it out and spend
My hidden wealth with open hand on all who call me friend.
Not one shall miss the kindly deed, the largess of relief,
The generous fellowship of joy, the sympathy of grief.
I’ll say the loyal, helpful things that make life sweet and fair,
I’ll pay the gratitude I owe for human love and care.
Perhaps I’ve been at fault sometimes-I’ll ask to be forgiven,
And make this little room of mine seem like a bit of heaven.
For one by one I’ll call my friends to stand beside my bed;
I’ll speak the true and tender words so often left unsaid;
And every heart shall throb and glow, all coldness melt away
Around my altar-fire of love-ah, give me but one day!
What’s that? I’ve had another day, and wasted it again?
A priceless day in empty dreams, another chance in vain?
Thou fool-this night-it’s very dark-the last-this choking breath-
One prayer-have mercy on a dreamer’s soul-God, this is death!
(Henry Van Dyke)
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Based on Keywords: unshadowed, altar-fire, half-hearted, heavy-handed, love-ah, life-i, dark-the, that-the, now-too, soul-god, night-it
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