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James Whitcomb Riley

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

The Watches Of The Night


O the waiting in the watches of the night!
In the darkness, desolation, and contrition and affright;
The awful hush that holds us shut away from all delight:
The ever weary memory that ever weary goes
Recounting ever over every aching loss it knows--
The ever weary eyelids gasping ever for repose--
In the dreary, weary watches of the night!

Dark--stifling dark--the watches of the night!
With tingling nerves at tension, how the blackness flashes white
With spectral visitations smitten past the inner sight!--
What shuddering sense of wrongs we've wrought
that may not be redressed--
Of tears we did not brush away--of lips we left unpressed,
And hands that we let fall, with all their loyalty unguessed!
Ah! the empty, empty watches of the night!

What solace in the watches of the night?--
What frailest staff of hope to stay--what faintest shaft of light?
Do we _dream_ and dare _believe_ it, that by never weight of right
Of our own poor weak deservings, we shall win the dawn at last--
Our famished souls find freedom from this penance for the past,
In a faith that leaps and lightens from the gloom
that flees aghast--
Shall we survive the watches of the night?

One leads us through the watches of the night--
By the ceaseless intercession of our loved ones lost to sight
He is with us through all trials, in His mercy and His might;--
With our mothers there about Him, all our sorrow disappears,
Till the silence of our sobbing is the prayer the Master hears,
And His hand is laid upon us with the tenderness of tears
In the waning of the watches of the night.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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