Lucy Larcom

(1824-1893 / the United States)

Himself He Cannot Save - Poem by Lucy Larcom

O SCOFFER! He who from the cross
Looked down thy dark abysm of loss,
And knew His pain alone could win
Such souls as thine from gulfs of sin, —
His death-groan mournful echo gave:
'Myself I cannot save.'

Words breathed in scorn, yet understood
By Him to bear a sense of good:
The secret of the glorious strife
Between the powers of death and life,
Love's deepest truth- self-sacrifice —
Hid in that mockery lies.

And he must understand it so
Who would relieve a brother's woe:
He cannot shun his own distress;
He hastes, with Christlike earnestness,
Although the way be through his grave:
Himself he cannot save.

Some happy souls may pass along
The heavenward road with smile and song,
Through guileless infancy and youth
Linked in with followers of the truth;
And their unconsciousness of ill
But makes them lovelier still.

Their peaceful path is not for all:
Each must obey his separate call;
And he is of himself abhorred
Who flies the summons of the Lord:
Sailing from danger unto ease,
He sinks in unknown seas.

None longs so for yon vales of peace
As he whom war gives no release.
But exiles' chains his brethren wear;
He knows no rest they may not share;
For them all hardships he must brave:
Himself he cannot save.

Aye, through all pain and loneliness,
Where men are perilled, he must press
To rescue, crying, 'Woe is me,
Resisting not the wrong I see!
If none uphold me, I must go,
Single, against the foe!'

And not the warrior-heart alone
The scoffer's word for truth has known: —
The mourner, weeping out the night
For aliens from the one true Light;
The watcher by the bed of pain,
Who knows her watch is vain;

He who has felt his heaviest cross
Far lighter than another's loss;
He who can ask and bear the blow
That shelters any soul from woe,
Sees why that Death on Calvary
Life's beacon-light must be.

Ring, mournful echo, through the world!
Float, banner of the Cross, unfurled
To show the servant who would prove
His Master's joy of suffering love,
That while thy folds above him wave
Himself he cannot save!

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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010

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