The Lesser Lamp

 

IN the beginning God created man
In His own image; we are blest indeed;
Yet are we worthy of the celestial plan?
So frail is human seed!

A soul that bears the stamp of God is giv’n
To us, but o’er the Godly seal is man’s.
The smear is there, since first we came from Heav’n
Of past unnumbered clans.

Yet are we Sons of Light and with us rests
The privilege of keeping bright the flame
Within the leaping hearts that stir our breasts,
In our Redeemer’s Name.

Yes, we are Sons of Light, but o’er us blows
The breeze of sin to snuff each flickering lamp,
Striving to smother so no light it throws,
Like breaths of after-damp.

We are the Lighted Ones, but some there are
Grow careless of the ‘trusted flame, and dim
It wanes, and in a growing dusk its star
Sheds forth no cheering glim.

We are the children of the Light! Know ye
We see the sun and feel its message warm;
Yet love more the moon which tenderly
Holds night within her arm.

Lesser is she, more tender, and she sails
Lonely yet not alone amid the stars;
Does she not heal where the sun cruelly flails
Earth with his golden bars?

Behold, the sun is gone, and stars in heaven
Watch the hot glory fade into the west.
To beauty and to prayer the world is given
As Dian leaves her nest.

Dry was the air but drier still the dust
That rose upon the blazing sun-beat ways.
Hard was the sky but harder still earth’s crust
Beneath the scorching rays.

Dry was the fount. Man’s heart was drier still
Where with a million fellows he did surge.
Hard stones were not so hard as the self-will
That gave to man his urge.

Cool is the eve and fresh with falling dew;
Wee flow’rets sleepily their petals fold;
The owl blinks on his lonely bough anew,
Again the bat is bold.

Small rustlings stir the dark and resting earth
As she recovers from her daily pain,
Settling and nestling till to-morrow’s birth
Starts rounds of toil again.

Cool is the touch, and fresh with sympathy,
Of gentle hands that stroke the heated brow;
The ministering angel, the times blessed is she,
Who understands as Thou!

‘Tis night! The stillness of the gentle air
Is a caress that lulls to sleep the pain
And anguish of the busy day, and rare
New comfort comes again.

‘Tis night! And like a smiling face the sky
Keeps wakeful watch upon the slumbering world:
The hours on silent feet go slipping by;
Eve’s banner is unfurled.

‘Tis night! The stillness of the lonely hour
Weighs in upon the throbbing of the heart;
It is the Voice of that Almighty Power
Which of our soul is part.

The half-light which the heavenly bodies render
Suspended in the deep dark vault of blue,
Gives out with what the rippling waves surrender,
The glim of elfin dew.

Amid this clear yet timid light endowed
With winking radiance from the tiny stars,
Why should it be a great expanse of cloud
Such beauty spoils and mars?

Why doth it loom like threatening mountain-sides
With menace in its bulk, to blot the sky?
Creeping relentless as the flowing tides
Into the dome on high?

But wait! From out the ebon depths a glow
Like some witch firelight in a cavern mouth
Appears, and then the moon o’verwhelms her foe
To shine upon the earth.

Still rising and excelling o’er the bank
Of vapour rolling densely on the waves,
The queen of night with horse of gleaming flank
The sea with silver paves.

Still upwards ever soars the milky moon
Across the starry desert of the sky,
And sends her messengers the moonbeams down
From her white throne on high.

She seems to smile as, looking on the earth,
She sees what we can never see, and knows
That for her eye alone the prayers and mirth
Her searching beams disclose.

The forest’s bosom is a lake of pearl
Scarce rippling in the soft and wanton breeze;
But can she see the ugly things that whirl
Beneath the cov’ring trees?

She may not see them. If she does her eyes
Are turned away unto the loveliness
Of other things; their scars she doth disguise
For love can do no less.

Mayhap on white-washed sepulchre she gleams,
Reclothing it with beauty to the eye;
What lies within is not exposed to beams
From her in passing by.

Here was an ugly tarn a few hours since,
A boundless waste of avid weeds and mire;
It speaks of beauty now and innocence,
For such is her desire.

She seems to smile as, looking on the world,
She sees in peaceful sleep a warrior band;
No hint of striving where their forms are curled,
No thoughts of Fatherland.

Beauty at all times adorns her visage bright,
And beauty lies where she hath laid her hand;
At all times lovely, lovelier still to-night
Above the weary land.

The passers-by have lost their lagging step
And in her radiance walk along with ease;
And loves pass into the mystic deep
Whispering eternities.

See where the waves lap on the silver strand
Where but a few short hours ago the sun
Blazed down; upon it now Diana’s wand
A silver web has spun.

See where the sea-gull circled in the blue,
Rising and falling, screeching to the skies;
Now in the purple void the lone curlew
Sends back her plaintive cries.

Now, where the bathers one time with loud jest
Splashed, and their shouts resounded through the haze,
Dark is the wave save where its shimmering crest
Catches the moones rays.

Diana, thou wast ever blest and fair,
But though thou seem’st to smile, thou art aloof;
Thou knowest thy beauty; can we then compare?
Thy beauty seeks no proof.

The beauty of a loving tender soul
That asks no recompense for all its good,
That makes another’s happiness its goal,
Is beauty that we should

Each one of us do well to emulate,
And purge our souls of self and all its dross;
To sweep with thoroughness ere ‘tis too late
To remedy our loss.

The hard and brilliant man is sure of all,
And is complacent till his earthly span
Tightens towards its end; then comes the gall,
O fiercely clinging man!

Contemptuous of the soft and warmer things
That make a woman’s life like His above;
She is the lesser lamp, but angel’s wings
Are hers, for she has love.

And when the faces of our friends grow dim
And feebly flicker, dying on our sight,
A woman’s love will cheer, when we to Him
Set forth at our midnight.

So that in ancient writings Thou didst say,
When thou createdst man for Thy delight,
“Two lamps there be, the great to rule the day,
“The lesser lamp the night!”

(Begun as a challenge on Douglas Promenade one night in the summer of 1922, emended and added to at various times, until the summer of 1927)