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- Bitter-Sweet - 20/22 -


_Mary_.

[_Weeping_.]

Have you a wish That I can gratify? Have you any words To send to other friends?

_Edward_.

I have no friends But you and these, and only wish to leave My worthless name and memory redeemed Within your hearts to pitying respect. I have no strength, and it becomes me not, To tell the story of my life of sin. I was a drunkard, thief, adulterer; And fled from shame, with shame, to find remorse. I had but few months of debauchery, Pursued with mad intent to damp or drown The flames of a consuming conscience, when My body, poisoned, crippled with disease, Refused the guilty service of my soul, And at midday fell prone upon the street. Thence I was carried to a hospital, And there I woke to that delirium Which none but drunkards this side of the pit May even dream of.

But at last there came, With abstinence and kindly medicines, Release from pain and peaceful sanity; And then Christ found me, ready for His hand. I was not ready for Him when He came And asked me for my youth; and when He knocked At my heart's door in manhood's early prime With tenderest monitions, I debarred His waiting feet with promise and excuse; And when, in after years, absorbed in sin, The gentle summons swelled to thunderings That echoed through the chambers of my soul With threats of vengeance, I shut up my ears; And then He went away, and let me rush Without arrest, or protest, toward the pit. I made swift passage downward, till, at length, I had become a miserable wreck-- Pleasure behind me; only pain before; My life lived out; the fires of passion dead, Without a friend; no pride, no power, no hope; No motive in me e'en to wish for life. Then, as I said, Christ came, with stern and sad Reminders of His mercy and my guilt, And the door fell before Him.

I went out, And trod the wildernesses of remorse For many days. Then from their outer verge, Tortured and blinded, I plunged madly down Into the sullen bosom of despair; But strength from Heaven was given me, and preserved Breath in my bosom, till a light streamed up Upon the other shore, and I struck out On the cold waters, struggling for my life. Fainting I reached the beach, and on my knees Climbed up the thorny hill of penitence, Till I could see, upon its distant brow, The Saviour beck'ning. Then I ran--I flew-- And grasped His outstretched hand. It lifted me High on the everlasting rock, and then It folded me, with all my griefs and tears, My sin-sick body and my guilt-stained soul, To the great heart that throbs for all the world.

_Mary_.

Dear Lord, I bless Thee! Thou hast heard my prayer, And saved the wanderer! Hear it once again, And lengthen out the life Thou hast redeemed!

_Edward_.

Mary, my wife, forbear! I may not give Response to such petition. I have prayed That I may die. When first the love Divine Received me on its bosom, and in mine I felt the springing of another life, I begged the Lord to grant me two requests: The first that I might die, and in that world Where passion sleeps, and only influence From Him and those who cluster at His throne Breathes on the soul, the germ of His great life, Bursting within me, might be perfected. The second, that your life, my love, and mine Might be once more united on the earth In holy marriage, and that mine might be Breathed out at last within your loving arms. One prayer is granted, and the other waits But a brief space for its accomplishment.

_Mary_.

But why this prayer to die? Still loving me,-- With the great motive for desiring life And the deep secret of enjoyment won,-- Why pray for death?

_Edward_.

Do you not know me, Mary? I am afraid to live, for I am weak. I've found a treasure only life can steal; I've won a jewel only death will keep. In such a heart as mine, the priceless pearl Would not be safe. That which I would not take When health was with me,--which I spurned away So long as I had power to sin, I fear Would be surrendered with that power's return And the temptation to its exercise. For soul like mine, diseased in every part, There is but one condition in which grace May give it service. For my malady The Great Physician draws the blood away That only flows to feed its baleful fires; For only thus the balsam and the balm May touch the springs of healing.

So I pray To be delivered from myself,--to be Delivered from necessity of ill,-- To be secured from bringing harm to you. Oh, what a boon is death to the sick soul! I greet it with a joy that passes speech. Were the whole world to come before me now,-- Wealth with its treasures; Pleasure with its cup; Power robed in purple; Beauty in its pride, And with Love's sweetest blossoms garlanded; Fame with its bays, and Glory with its crown,-- To tempt me lifeward, I would turn away, And stretch my hands with utter eagerness Toward the pale angel waiting for me now, And give my hand to him, to be led out, Serenely singing, to the land of shade.

_Mary_.

Edward, I yield you. I would not retain One who has strayed so long from God and heaven, When his weak feet have found the only path Open for such as he.

_Edward_.

My strength recedes; But ere it fail, tell me how fares your life. You have seen sorrow; but it comforts me To hear the language of a chastened soul From one perverted by my guilty hand. You speak the dialect of the redeemed-- The Heaven-accepted. Tell me it is so, And you are happy.

_Mary_.

With sweet hope and trust I may reply, 'tis as you think and wish. I have seen sorrow, surely, and the more That I have seen what was far worse; but God Sent His own servant to me to restore My sadly straying feet to the sure path; And in my soul I have the pledge of grace Which shall suffice to keep them there.

_Edward_.

Ah, joy! You found a friend; and my o'erflowing heart, Welling with gratitude, pours out to him For his kind ministry its fitting meed. Oh, breathe his name to me, that my poor lips May bind it to a benison, and that, While dying, I may whisper it with those-- Jesus and Mary--which I love the best. Name him, I pray you.

_Mary_.

You would ask of me To bear your thanks to him, and to rehearse Your dying words?

_Grace_.

He asks your good friend's name; You do not understand him.

_Mary_.

It is hard To give denial to a dying wish;


Bitter-Sweet - 20/22

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