Augusta Davies Webster

(30 January 1837 - 5 September 1894 / Dorset, England)

To-Day - Poem by Augusta Davies Webster

OH God, where hast thou hidden Truth? Oh Truth,
Where is the road to God?
Lo, we, that should be old, have learned our youth;
We are not manly ripe; we have not dower
Of all the wisdom that a world can gain
In the centuries of work, peace, war, hope, pain;
We are not strong with all the gathered power
From age to age left our inheritance;
We stand not near the goal, there by the advance
Of step on step, through mire and blood and tears,
Forgotten fathers trod;
We are new in a new world; where shall we know,
Where in the ancient years,
Sign-marks to guide us on the way we go?

We are new in a new world. As children learn
Life by surprise and doubt,
So life must learn itself at each return
Of the upsoaring Phoenix birth from sleep
Among the ashes of an ended Past.
In its own strength, and singly from the last,
Each age's long To-day begins to creep
In baby paces whitherward it goes.
And from too far with too unsure a close,
Like void sonorous echoes in the hill,
Yesterday's voice rings out,
So gives the questioning turmoil of our cries
Answer such as we will.
Has Past writ Present in its histories?

Our fathers saw, we see not with their eyes,
Knew, and we learned in vain:
We seek old wisdoms in a novel wise;
We toil beginners of the things that are;
Like lessons which we early get by rote,
Heedless of meaning in the words we quote,
And by and by, the schoolroom left afar,
Discern at last their sense or find a new,
The just, the unjust, the counterfeit, the true,
We said from books upon our fathers' shelves,
All must be learned again:
We, children-like, still wondering as we grow,
Change, and become ourselves,
And only as ourselves can henceforth know.

How shall we know? what must we do? what be?
Answer us, Life, instead:
Past speaks us a dead tongue, we look to thee
And know thee teacher—yet a tardy one;
For now we labour, fearing to what end;
We journey, dimly seeing where we tend;
We do, and question was it rightly done;
Doubt and distrust of self beside us stand;
And who will find us Truth? where is her hand
To guide us on or back by the round path,
Leading but whence it led,
She travels on from God to reach him by?
What is the name she hath
To find her by to-day? Life, make reply.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010

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