Two happy words like far-off chimes
Sound cheerily to men, “ Good Times.”
Half-hushed in distance though they seem,
Their peal calls back hope gone astray,
And sings of help not far away, —
A daily trust, a nightly dream.
Ah when, ah how, shall be fulfilled
This deep desire, of God instilled?
Mock not the yearning of our race,
The forethought of some final good,
Which first flashed into human mood
When sword-flames blanched the first man’s face!
For poet, warrior, saint, and king
Have served those chimes “ Good Times ” that ring,
In strength of deed and song and prayer:
And shall we say that, serpent-like,
Man on himself must turn and strike
The fangs of death, in last despair?
Despairing that the earth should know
An ending of the reign of woe?
Nay, hearken! Still that song, “ Good Times ”!
Through storm and shine, from sea to sea,
That music, wrought invisibly,
Floats still, to fill all lands and climes.
Like bells of churches built for Christ, —
The meek, rejected, sacrificed,
The Promised and the Promiser, —
Like holy bells, this glad refrain
Shall greet the coming year again.
And set fond hearts with joy astir.
Yet dream not that the goal is won.
A thousand courses round the sun
Have steeped the world in broader light;
But woe is me! — look back, look back:
The fairest seasons in our track
Are but dead leaves, and dim as night.
And lo, where echoing spires arise
And kiss, to-day, the morning skies,
To-night the shapes of wrong and shame —
A quicksand shoal of faces — pass
And wither from the glare of gas
Back to the wild haunts whence they came.
What though the wheels of trade go round
And streets are full of jocund sound?
The weather-vane of work and play
And gusty grief can make no law:
But One long since the plan foresaw
And fashioned bright or dark our day.
Ah, man, your church-bells and your praise
And all your fortunate-seeming ways
Shall scarcely bring you to the mark!
Of truth of book and good of gold
What worth, unless your heart shall hold
The everlasting morning’s spark?
George Parsons Lathrop.