The Reformer





ALL grim and soiled and brown with tan,

I saw a Strong One, in his wrath,

Smiting the godless shrines of man

Along his path.



The Church, beneath her trembling dome,

Essayed in vain her ghostly charm

Wealth shook within his gilded home

With strange alarm.



Fraud from his secret chambers fled

Before the sunlight bursting in

Sloth drew her pillow o'er her head

To drown the din.



"Spare," Art implored, "yon holy pile;

That grand, old, time-worn turret spare;"

Meek Reverence, kneeling in the aisle,

Cried out, "Forbear!"



Gray-bearded Use, who, deaf and blind,

Groped for his old accustomed stone,

Leaned on his staff, and wept to find

His seat o'erthrown.



Young Romance raised his dreamy eyes,

O'erhung with paly locks of gold,--

"Why smite," he asked in sad surprise,

"The fair, the old?"



Yet louder rang the Strong One's stroke,

Yet nearer flashed his axe's gleam;

Shuddering and sick of heart I woke,

As from a dream.



I looked: aside the dust-cloud rolled,

The Waster seemed the Builder too;

Upspringing from the ruined Old

I saw the New.



'T was but the ruin of the bad,--

The wasting of the wrong and ill;

Whate'er of good the old time had

Was living still.



Calm grew the brows of him I feared;

The frown which awed me passed away,

And left behind a smile which cheered

Like breaking day.



The grain grew green on battle-plains,

O'er swarded war-mounds grazed the cow;

The slave stood forging from his chains

The spade and plough.



Where frowned the fort, pavilions gay

And cottage windows, flower-entwined,

Looked out upon the peaceful bay

And hills behind.



Through vine-wreathed cups with wine once red,

The lights on brimming crystal fell,

Drawn, sparkling, from the rivulet head

And mossy well.



Through prison walls, like Heaven-sent hope,

Fresh breezes blew, and sunbeams strayed,

And with the idle gallows-rope

The young child played.



Where the doomed victim in his cell

Had counted o'er the weary hours,

Glad school-girls, answering to the bell,

Came crowned with flowers.



Grown wiser for the lesson given,

I fear no longer, for I know

That, where the share is deepest driven,

The best fruits grow.



The outworn rite, the old abuse,

The pious fraud transparent grown,

The good held captive in the use

Of wrong alone,--



These wait their doom, from that great law

Which makes the past time serve to-day;

And fresher life the world shall draw

From their decay.



Oh, backward-looking son of time!

The new is old, the old is new,

The cycle of a change sublime

Still sweeping through.



So wisely taught the Indian seer;

Destroying Seva, forming Brahm,

Who wake by turns Earth's love and fear,

Are one, the same.



Idly as thou, in that old day

Thou mournest, did thy sire repine;

So, in his time, thy child grown gray

Shall sigh for thine.



But life shall on and upward go;

Th' eternal step of Progress beats

To that great anthem, calm and slow,

Which God repeats.



Take heart! the Waster builds again,

A charmed life old Goodness hath;

The tares may perish, but the grain

Is not for death.



God works in all things; all obey

His first propulsion from the night

Wake thou and watch! the world is gray

With morning light!

1848.





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