Lake Lyrics and Other Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

THE HEBREW FATHER'S PRAYER


 

O THOU, just One, who givest gifts to men,
    Who holdest light and darkness in thy hand,
    Who alone can blight and bless, whose strong command
Can make a garden of a darksome fen:
    O Thou who lovest all and hatest none,
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        Look down, compassionate, I pray, on me,
    Not for myself but for the sake of one,
        The little child that smileth at my knee.

Men say we come of a dark, cursed race,
    Who fell in bitterness from out thy word,

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    Who slew Thy blessed Son—a ruthless horde—
And gave Him gall to drink, and smote His face:
    O Thou who knowest all, let not this blight,
        This awful blight come down; but if it be,
    Send it on my dark life, not her’s so bright,
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        The little child that smileth at my knee.

Thou knowest I have sinned and fallen short
    Of all thy law, that I was reared in hate
    And bitterness as dread as their’s who wait,
In gloom and darkness round hell’s baleful court.

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    But pity, Lord, O pity my distress,
        Let all thy righteous sentence fall on me,
    Consume me utterly, if Thou wilt bless
        The little child that smileth at my knee.

O take me, Lord, and make me what Thou wilt,

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    Give me to drink whole centuries of wo
    For her dear sake who is as driven snow,
Plunge agony’s cruel sword clean to the hilt:
    Heap on me all, O what would I not bear:
        For deepest hell were heaven indeed to me,
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    To know that thou didst have her in thy care,
        The little child that smileth at my knee.

Then spake God’s angel, answering thus, “Old man,
    Thy love so white hath burnt out all thy sin,
    Where thy child goes thou too shalt enter in,

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Heaven hath no hate for thee in all it’s plan,
    God made love strong that it might whiten all,
        Might conquer all, and make all thereby free.
     Thou lovest thy God in loving that one small,
        Unconscious child that smileth at thy knee.
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