Songs from a Northern Garden

by Bliss Carman


 

THE CHURCH OF THE LEAVES


 

In French Canadian legendry,
A rising from the dead recurs
Each Christmastide. The old curé,
With his parishioners

Around him, in the night returns;

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And while his voice renews its bond
In the beloved offices, 
The ghostly flock respond.

Just so, we keep the forms of faith 
That wrought and moved us long ago;

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We mark the height man's soul attained, 
Forgetting it must grow.

Those venerable outgrown shells
Wherefrom the radiant life is fled,—
We wrong with our idolatry

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The dogmas of the dead.

But He who walked with the world-soul
At twilight in Gethsemane,
Breathing among the listening boughs
Sweet prayers of charity,

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Must daily with the wind return
About the dim world, to renew 
The trembling litanies of the leaves, 
The blessings of the dew.

He must revive with wind-sweet voice 

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The gospel hardly known to flesh,
Till the same spirit speaks again,
Interpreting afresh;

Till the vast house of trees and air
Reverberates from roof to floor

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With meanings of mysterious things
We need to ask no more.

For still He walks these shadowy aisles,
Dreaming of beauties still to be, 
More manly than our manliest, 

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Whose thought and love were free.

The pines are all His organ pipes,
And the great rivers are His choir;
And creatures of the field and tide
That reck not, yet aspire,

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Our brothers of the tardy hope, 
Put forth their strength in senses dim, 
Threading the vast, they know not why, 
Through eons up to Him.

I see Him in the orchard glooms,

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Watching the russet apples tan,
With the serene regard of one
Who is more God than man.

And where the silent valley leads
The small white water through the hills,

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And the black spruces stand unmoved,
And quiet sunlight fills

The world and time with large slow peace,
It is His patience waiting there 
Response from lives whose breath is but 

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The echo of His prayer.

Brother of Nazareth, behold, 
We, too, perceive this life expand
Beyond the daily need, for use 
Thy thought must understand.

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Not for ourselves alone we strive,
Since Thy perfection manifest 
Bids self resign what self desired,
Postponing good for best.

And in the far unfretted years,

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The generations we uphold 
Shall reach the measure of Thy heart, 
The stature of Thy mould.