James Brunton Stephens

(17 June 1835 – 29 June 1902 / Borrowstounness, on the Firth of Forth, Scotland;)

The Dark Companion


There is an orb that mocked the lore of sages
   Long time with mystery of strange unrest;
The steadfast law that rounds the starry ages
   Gave doubtful token of supreme behest.

But they who knew the ways of God unchanging,
   Concluded some far influence unseen --
Some kindred sphere through viewless ethers ranging,
   Whose strong persuasions spanned the void between.

And knowing it alone through perturbation
   And vague disquiet of another star,
They named it, till the day of revelation,
   "The Dark Companion" -- darkly guessed afar.

But when, through new perfection of appliance,
   Faith merged at length in undisputed sight,
The mystic mover was revealed to science,
   No Dark Companion, but -- a speck of light.

No Dark Companion, but a sun of glory;
   No fell disturber, but a bright compeer;
The shining complement that crowned the story;
   The golden link that made the meaning clear.

Oh, Dark Companion, journeying ever by us,
   Oh, grim Perturber of our works and ways --
Oh, potent Dread, unseen, yet ever nigh us,
   Disquieting all the tenor of our days --

Oh, Dark Companion, Death, whose wide embraces
   O'ertake remotest change of clime and skies --
Oh, Dark Companion, Death, whose grievous traces
   Are scattered shreds of riven enterprise --

Thou, too, in this wise, when, our eyes unsealing,
   The clearer day shall change our faith to sight,
Shalt show thyself, in that supreme revealing,
   No Dark Companion, but a thing of light.

No ruthless wrecker of harmonious order;
   No alien heart of discord and caprice;
A beckoning light upon the Blissful Border;
   A kindred element of law and peace.

So, too, our strange unrest in this our dwelling,
   The trembling that thou joinest with our mirth,
Are but thy magnet-communings compelling
   Our spirits farther from the scope of earth.

So, doubtless, when beneath thy potence swerving,
   'Tis that thou lead'st us by a path unknown,
Our seeming deviations all subserving
   The perfect orbit round the central throne.

The night wind moans. The Austral wilds are round me.
   The loved who live -- ah, God! how few they are!
I looked above; and heaven in mercy found me
   This parable of comfort in a star.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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