A Psalm of the Waters

Lo ! this is a psalm of the waters, —
The wavering, wandering waters:
With languages learned in the forest,
With secrets of earth’s lonely caverns,
The mystical waters go by me
On errands of love and of beauty,
On embassies friendly and gentle,
With shimmer of brown and of silver.
In pools of dark quiet they ponder,
Where the birch, and the elm, and the maple
Are dreams in the soul of their stillness.
In eddying spirals they loiter,
For touch of the fern-plumes they linger,
Caress the red mesh of the pine roots,
And quench the strong thirst of the leafage
That, high overhead, with its shadows
Requites the soft touch of their giving :
Like him whose supreme benediction
Made glad, for love’s service instinctive,
The heart of the Syrian woman.
O company, stately and gracious,
That wait the sad axe on the hillside!
My kinsmen since far in the ages
We tossed, you and I, as dull atoms,
The sport, of the wind and the water.
We are as a greater has made us,
You less and I more; yet forever
The less is the giver, and thankful,
The guest of your quivering shadows,
I welcome the counseling voices
That haunt the dim aisles of the forest.
Lo, this is a psalm of the waters,
That wake in us yearnings prophetic,
That cry in the wilderness lonely
With meanings for none but the tender.
I hear in the rapids below me
Gay voices of little ones playing,
And echoes of boisterous laughter
From grim walls of resonant granite.
’T is gone — it is here — this wild music!
Untamed by the ages, as gladsome
As when, from the hands of their Maker,
In wild unrestraint the swift waters
Leapt forth to the bountiful making
Of brook, and of river and ocean.
I linger, I wonder, I listen.
Alas! is it I who interpret
The cry of the masterful north wind,
The hum of the rain in the hemlock,
As chorals of joy or of sadness,
To match the mere moods of my being ?
Alas for the doubt and the wonder !
Alas for the strange incompleteness
That limits with boundaries solemn
The questioning soul! Yet forever
I know that these choristers ancient
Have touch of my heart; and alas, too,
That never was love in its fullness
Told all the great soul of its loving!
I know, too, the years that, remorseless,
Have hurt me with sorrow bring ever
More near for my help the quick healing,
The infinite comfort of nature;
For surely the childhood that enters
This heaven of wood and of water
Is won with gray hairs, in the nearing
That home ever open to childhood.
And you, you my brothers, who suffer
In serfdom of labor and sorrow,
What gain have your wounds, that forever
Man bridges with semblance of knowledge
The depths he can never illumine ?
Or binds for his service the lightning,
Or prisons the steam of the waters ?
What help has it brought to the weeper?
How lessened the toil of the weary?
Alas ! since at evening, deserted,
Job sat in his desolate anguish,
The world has grown wise; but the mourner
Still weeps and will weep ; and what helping
He hath from his God or his fellow
Eludes the grave sentinel reason,
Steals in at the heart’s lowly portal,
And helps, but will never be questioned.
Yea, then, let us take what they give us,
And ask not to know why the murmur
Of winds in the pine-tree has power
To comfort the hurt of life’s battle,
To help when our dearest are helpless.
Lo, here stands the mother. She speaketh
As when at his tent door the Arab
Calls, Welcome ! in language we know not;
Cries, Enter, and share with thy servant!
S.Weir Mitchell.