Ada Cambridge (21 November 1844 – 19 July 1926 / St Gemans, Norfolk)
We have heard many sermons, you and I,
And many more may hear,
When sitting quiet in cathedral nave,
With folded palms and faces meek and grave;—
But few like this one, dear.
We ofttimes watch together 'fore the veil,
With reverent, gleaming eyes,
While priestly hands are busy with the folds,—
And pant to see the holy place, which holds
Life's dreadest mysteries.
We watch weak, foolish fingers straying o'er
The broidered boss, to grasp
Vaguely at some small end of thread, and twist
And shake the glorious pattern into mist,
And leave us nought to clasp.
We watch, with eyes dilated, some strong hand
Of nerve and muscle, trace
The grand, faint outlines, erewhile undefined
To our slow earth-enfolded sense, and find
The great design—the shadow from behind—
Dawning before our face.
But seldom do we see, dear, you and I,
The pattern melt in light,
And all the shine flow out on us, uncheck'd—
With eyes of soul and not of intellect—
As we did see that night.
It was a summer-night—the sun was low,
But overlaid the sea,
And made gold-crystals of the wet sea-sand,
And drew our shadows short upon the strand
That stretched out shallowly.
It was a Sunday night—far off we heard
The solemn vesper-chime
From some grey wind-swept steeple by the shore,
Chanting “For ev-er-more! for ev-er-more!”
While the deep sea beat time.
We wandered far that night, dear, you and I,
We wandered out of reach,—
Until the golden distances grew grey,
And narrowed in the glory, as it lay
'Mid horizon and beach.
We wandered far along the lonely waste,
Where seldom foot had trod;
The world behind us dared not to intrude—
The summer silence and the solitude
Were only filled with God.
We sat down on the sand there, you and I,
We sat down awed and dumb,
And watched the fiery circle fall and fall
Through solemn folds of purple, and the small
Soft ripples go and come.
There was not wind enough to stir the reeds
Around us, nor to curl
The sheeny, dimpled surface of the deep;
The waters murmured low, as half in sleep,
With measured swish and swirl.
Two sea-birds came and dabbled in the pools,
And cried their plaintive cry,
As their strong wings swept o'er us as we sat
(No profanation of the stillness that,
But added sanctity).
They flecked the crimson shallows with black streaks,
Low-wheeling to and fro,
Crying their bold, sweet cry, as knowing well
It was a place where God, not man, did dwell—
A father, not a foe.
* * * * *
Ah, we hear many sermons, you and I—
The poor words fall and drown;
But this, whose speech was silence, this has stirred
The stream of years,—and aye it will be heard
As when that sun went down!
Comments about this poem (A Sermon by Ada Cambridge )
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