James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

Luther Benson - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley


POOR victim of that vulture curse
That hovers o'er the universe,
With ready talons quick to strike
In every human heart alike,
And cruel beak to stab and tear
In virtue's vitals everywhere,--
You need no sympathy of mine
To aid you, for a strength divine
Encircles you, and lifts you clear
Above this earthly atmosphere.

And yet I can but call you poor,
As, looking through the open door
Of your sad life, I only see
A broad landscape of misery,
And catch through mists of pitying tears
The ruins of your younger years,
I see a father's shielding arm
Thrown round you in a wild alarm--
Struck down, and powerless to free
Or aid you in your agony.

I see a happy home grow dark
And desolate--the latest spark
Of hope is passing in eclipse--
The prayer upon a mother's lips
Has fallen with her latest breath
In ashes on the lips of death--
I see a penitent who reels,
And writhes, and clasps his hands, and kneels,
And moans for mercy for the sake
Of that fond heart he dared to break.

And lo! as when in Galilee
A voice above the troubled sea
Commanded 'Peace; be still!' the flood
That rolled in tempest-waves of blood
Within you, fell in calm so sweet
It ripples round the Saviour's feet;
And all your noble nature thrilled
With brightest hope and faith, and filled
Your thirsty soul with joy and peace
And praise to Him who gave release.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010

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