I called two Spirits from before God's throne,
"What wilt thou give me, Life?" I asked of one,
Whose presence seemed half shadow and half sun.
"I'll give thee hours of joy, bright hours, glowing
With the hot sun of love, sweet hours, flowing
Calmly away in holy unity,
With little children praying at thy knee,
And thy beloved blessing them and thee!
And hours of sorrow—sorrow for the loss
Of friends and kindred, or the heavier cross
Of children snatched in all their infant charms
From the frail haven of a mother's arms;
Or thy beloved's heart may change and grieve thee,
Or, like the rest, he too may die and leave thee!"
So spake that angel: to the other turning,
Above whose misty form a star was burning,
"What wilt thou give me, Death?" I faltered, mourning!
"My gifts depend upon thyself: if thou
Use well the hours Life is bestowing now,
I proffer thee eternity for time;
For earthly courts, God's palaces sublime;
For withered buds, crowns of immortal flowers;
For fading leaflets, amaranthine bowers!
And I will give thee more. Within my gate
The lost and loved shall for thy presence wait;
The parents of thy youth—the friends for whom
Thy tears have vainly fallen—all shall come!
And a bright band of cherubs, robed in white,—
On each fair head a coronal of light,
Shall greet thee, happy mother, safely grown
In angel purity, around God's throne.
And thy beloved shall wander at thy side,
There, where no heart can change, Death can no more divide."
And as the Spirit spake, the star of light
Above his head grew gloriously bright;
And I beheld a countenance divine,
Full of compassion, awful, yet benign!
Then did the angels vanish, and with tears
I prayed that I might so employ the years
That Life should give, that with my parting breath
I might reclaim the promises of Death!