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- Bitter-Sweet - 4/22 -


_Ruth_.

I am not satisfied. If evil live Against God's will, evil is king of all, And they do well who worship Lucifer. I am not satisfied. My reason spurns Such prostitution to absurdities. I know that you are happy; but I shrink From your blind faith with loathing and with fear. And feel that I must win it, if I win, With the surrender, not of will alone, But of the noblest faculty that God Has crowned me with.

_Israel_.

O blind and stubborn child! My light, my joy, my burden and my grief! How would I lead you to the wells of peace, And see you dip your fevered palms and drink! Gladly to purchase this would I lay down The precious remnant of my life, and sleep, Wrapped in the faith you spurn, till the archangel Sounds the last trump. But God's good will be done! I leave you with Him.

_Ruth_.

Father, talk not thus! Oh, do not blame me! I would do it all, If but to bless you with a single joy; But I am helpless.

_Israel_.

God will help you, Ruth.

_Ruth_.

To quench my reason? Can I ask the boon? My lips would blister with the blasphemy. I cannot take your faith; and that is why I would forget that I am in a world Where evil lives, and why I guard my joys With such a jealous care.

_David_.

There, Ruth, sit down! 'Tis the old question, with the old reply. You fly along the path, with bleeding feet, Where many feet have flown and bled before; And he who seeks to guide you to the goal Has (let me say it, father) stopped far short, And taken refuge at a wayside inn, Whose haunted halls and mazy passages Receive no light, save through the riddled roof, Pierced thick by pilgrim staves, that Faith may lie Upon its back, and only gaze on Heaven. I would not banish evil if I could; Nor would I be so deep in love with joy As to seek for it in forgetfulness, Through faith or fear.

_Ruth_.

Teach me the better way, And every expiration from my lips Shall be a grateful blessing on your head; And in the coming world I'll seek the side Of no more gracious angel than the man Who gives me brotherhood by leading me Home with himself to heaven.

_Israel_.

My son, Be careful of your words! 'Tis no light thing To take the guidance of a straying soul.

_David_.

I mark the burden well, and love it, too, Because I love the girl and love her Lord, And seek to vindicate His love to her And waken hers for Him. Be this my plea: God is almighty--all-benevolent; And naught exists save by His loving will. Evil, or what we reckon such, exists, And not against His will; else the Supreme Is subject, and we have in place of God A phantom nothing, with a phantom name. Therefore I care not whether He ordain That evil live, or whether He permit; Therefore I ask not why, in either case, As if He meant to curse me, but I ask What He would have this evil do for me? What is its mission? what its ministry? What golden fruit lies hidden in its husk? How shall it nurse my virtue, nerve my will, Chasten my passions, purify my love, And make me in some goodly sense like Him Who bore the cross of evil while He lived, Who hung and bled upon it when He died, And now, in glory, wears the victor's crown?

_Israel_.

If evil, then, have privilege and part In the economy of holiness, Why came the Christ to save us from its power, And bring us restoration of the bliss Lost in the lapse of Eden?

_David_. And would you Or Ruth 'have restoration of that bliss, And welcome transplantation to the state Associate with it?

_Ruth_.

Would I? Would I not! Oh, I have dreamed of it a thousand times, Sleeping and waking, since the torch of thought Flashed into flame at Revelation's touch, And filled my spirit with its quenchless fire. Most envious dreams of innocence and joy Have haunted me,--dreams that were born in sin, Yet swathed in stainless snow. I've dreamed, and dreamed, Of wondrous trees, crowned with perennial green, Whose soft still shadows gleamed with golden lamps Of pensile fruitage, or were flushed with life Radiant and tuneful when broad flocks of birds Swept in and out like sheets of living flame. I've dreamed of aisles tufted with velvet grass, And bordered with the strange intelligence Of myriad loving eyes among the flowers, That watched me with a curious, calm delight, As rows of wayside cherubim may watch A new soul, walking into Paradise. I've dreamed of sunsets when the sun supine Lay rocking on the ocean like a god, And threw his weary arms far up the sky, And with vermilion-tinted fingers toyed With the long tresses of the evening star. I've dreamed of dreams more beautiful than all-- Dreams that were music, perfume, vision, bliss,-- Blent and sublimed, till I have stood inwrapped In the thick essence of an atmosphere That made me tremble to unclose my eyes Lest I should look on God. And I have dreamed Of sinless men and maids, mated in heaven, Ere yet their souls had sought for beauteous forms To give them human sense and residence, Moving through all this realm of choice delights For ever and for aye; with hands and hearts Immaculate as light; without a thought Of evil, and without a name for fear. Oh, when I wake from happy dreams like these, To the old consciousness that I must die, To the old presence of a guilty heart, To the old fear that haunts me night and day, Why should I not deplore the graceless fall That makes me what I am, and shuts me out From a condition and society As much above a sinful maiden's dreams As Eden blest surpasses Eden curst?

_David_.

So you would be another Eve, and so-- Fall with the first temptation, like herself! God seeks for virtue; you for innocence. You'll find it in the cradle--nowhere else-- Save in your dreams, among the grown-up babes That dwelt in Eden--powerless, pulpy souls That showed a dimple for each touch of sin. God seeks for virtue, and, that it may live, It must resist, and that which it resists Must live. Believe me, God has other thought Than restoration of our fallen race To its primeval innocence and bliss. If Jesus Christ--as we are taught--was slain From the foundation of the world, it was Because our evil lived in essence then-- Coeval with the great, mysterious fact. And He was slain that we might be transformed,-- Not into Adam's sweet similitude-- But the more glorious image of Himself, A resolution of our destiny As high transcending Eden's life and lot As He surpasses Eden's fallen lord.

_Ruth_.

You're very bold, my brother, very bold. Did I not know you for an earnest man, When sacred themes move you to utterance,


Bitter-Sweet - 4/22

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